Assessing students

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What is moderation?

Consider this quote from a student course evaluation:

"….when we went and approach the lecturer about the assignment, she said,  ‘You’ve got that freedom to do what you want’,

but she doesn’t have a plan of what she wants in the course booklet, so you’re not quite sure what she wants.  

So you do what you think she wants, take into account what she said in class, but then she says, ‘That’s not really what I wanted’ ...  you can’t win!"

There is no doubt that marking - or any kind of judging - can be very subjective, and can even depend on the mood of the marker.

This brings challenges to course coordinators in trying to make sure that students' work is marked in the way what they would like, so that the students' 'destiny' will depend on how somebody feels on the day.

(Flint, N & Johnson, B 2011, Towards Fairer University Assessment: Recognising the concerns of students, Routledge, Oxon)

Although people will have different ideas about what moderation means, the ALTC research indicates that most understanding of the term focuses on:

  • Consistency in assessment and marking
  • Processes for ensuring comparability
  • Measures of quality control
  • Processes to look for equivalence
  • Maintainance of academic standards to ensure fairness
  • Quality assurance

Marking and reviewing grades, in isolation, do not result in effective moderation. There are a series of processes and activities which contribute to moderation, including the design and development of the assessment, the running and marking of the students' work, and then the review process after the assessment has been completed.

The aim of moderation is to ensure that assessment is fair, valid and reliable. Moderation is especially necessary when assessment involves large units or multiple markers, occurs on different campuses, is subjective or differs across students.  


UniSA and Divisional policy on moderation 

The Assessment Policies and Procedures Manual (APPM) is a comprehensive guide to University policy and procedure on assessment principles and requirements. 

The APPM states that: "Each division will ensure that moderation practices in its schools and courses are documented and consistent with the view of moderation outlined in 3.1.1 and 3.1.2."


Questions to ask when ensuring good moderation

The ALTC Moderation Toolkit is a comprehensive resource which outlines a series of key elements of effective moderation. We have summarised some of the elements below here in this interactive activity (if you are reading this on a phone or tablet, click here to see the interactive activity in proportion).  

Download this information (20 KB)

Interesting resources

Towards fairer assessment: Nerilee Flint and Bruce Johnson.

ALTC Assessment Moderation Toolkit