Sarah Treneer and Claire Kendall describe how they developed a technique for encouraging children to reflect on their own and others’ learning through the use of peer feedback.

We became interested in assessment for learning (AfL) when our school joined a local schools network called ‘Learning to Learn’, which focuses on using strategies in the classroom. Through the network we have attended conferences, Inset training and have participated in observations in different schools.

Two stars and a wish
The strategy of ‘Two stars and a wish’ was developed by our school in response to network meetings. It aims to encourage the children to reflect on their own and each other’s learning. We developed this as we felt our children were becoming overly reliant on adult support for feedback and we wanted them to become more independent in their own learning.
The ‘two stars’ in the strategy form the positive feedback on a piece of work and the ‘wish’ indicates where development could be made.

Children can assess their own work by giving themselves ‘stars’ and ‘wishes’ or they can give feedback on another child’s work. We have found the strategy can be flexible and allows the children to sometimes give only one star or no wish. We feel it is important to occasionally exclude the wish as over-use may have a negative effect, where children feel their work is never good enough. The feedback is directly linked to the success criteria/learning objective that has been established by the class during a lesson. The success criteria (or ‘steps to success’) take the form of a displayed list to remind the children of what a good piece of work should contain. It is important that the children and the teacher write the success criteria together during the lesson, so each child has a clear understanding of the ‘success’ that they are aiming for.

Although our study was a whole-school initiative, we focused on Years 3 and 4, as these were the classes we taught in. As we wanted to improve independent learning across the ability range, we included all the children in our research.

We used a range of methods to indicate the value of ‘Two stars and a wish’. These include observations from support staff, interviews with the children, samples of children’s work through the year and a film of children at work. The different approaches to collecting the data meant we had a broad picture of what was happening throughout the year. The film was able to capture the children working in their natural environment without feeling they had to please the teacher with ‘correct’ responses.

We found at the beginning of the year that the children were giving feedback related to output and presentation, eg ‘Star: Neat handwriting, Wish: Write more next time.’ Although it is important that work is neat and well-presented, this feedback was not linked to the learning objective for the lesson. As a result of these findings we felt we needed to go back and re-model the strategy to the children. We feel we underestimated the modelling process at first; we let the children loose on each other’s work too early. It took several sessions of explicit teaching to help the children understand what valuable feedback involves. We found we had to model ‘Two stars and a wish’ as a shared activity on the carpet. Once we had done this process a few times, the children became more aware of how to use the success criteria in giving feedback. In comparing work from the same child over the year, we noticed presentational aspects were mentioned less and less as time went on and feedback became more focused and specific to individual learning outcomes.

As a result of the interviews that took place we found the children enjoyed using ‘Two stars and a wish’ and were enthusiastic about explaining the process. The children have become noticeably more motivated when working this year as they now have a wider audience who will regularly see their work. They are also more reflective and will willingly and independently look back on their last piece of work to find some feedback from an adult or their peers. We found it important to build time into the day where the children are able to look back through their work and reflect on their learning without feeling rushed to start a new piece of work.

Plans for the future
We have been really pleased with the success of ‘Two stars and a wish’ and it is definitely a strategy we will continue to use. We hope to extend its use into Foundation subjects, as we have mainly focused on literacy and numeracy this year. We have been able to adapt the strategy through the school so it is suitable for all age groups. In KS1 feedback is largely verbal. Towards upper KS2 it becomes more formal in its recording.

While we have found the children have gained a lot from looking back at feedback from a previous session, we have found it difficult to give the children time to act upon their wish and go back and improve their work. This is something we would like to develop in the future, as we know that for assessment to be formative, the feedback has to be used by the child.

Sharing the success
This has been a whole-school venture and we have all benefited from watching each other teaching and receiving feedback about our own lessons. We have also been fortunate to have made links with teachers in other local schools through the network and have been able to visit other schools and watch other practitioners implementing AfL strategies. This has helped us to share good practice and given us the confidence to try new ideas in our own classrooms.

Sarah used the film evidence we collected to make a short film about ‘Two stars and a wish’ in our school, which was shown on Teacher’s TV early this year. She has received feedback from other practitioners saying that the film inspired them to use AfL themselves and gave them some good ideas on how to implement it in their own classrooms. The film was also shown to a national audience at the Campaign for Learning network conference. We feel the film has been an excellent tool for promoting AfL strategies, in particular spreading the use of ‘Two stars and a wish’, first within our own school, then to the local community and finally to a national audience of practitioners.