Why do we moderate assessment judgements?

In this ‘Ask the expert’, Liz Twist, Head of Assessment Research and Product Development at NFER and former teacher, answers some FAQs on moderation of assessment judgements.

Why do we moderate?

It’s to ensure that teachers are making consistent judgments about standards. The aim is that a piece of work can be seen as providing evidence of the particular standard, regardless of who is doing the assessing. This is vital if we are to have confidence in the assessment decisions that are recorded.

The ‘standard’ may be in the form of a performance descriptor (as in England’s national curriculum teacher assessment frameworks) but it could also be marking criteria if the work derives from an assessment task or an assessment of how well the learning objective has been met.

What is national curriculum moderation?

In England, teacher assessment judgments are moderated at key stage 1 and the teacher assessment of writing is moderated at key stage 2. Around a quarter of schools will have their assessment judgments moderated by staff from a local authority. Further information is available in the STA’s Assessment and Reporting Arrangements, published annually in October.

How does whole-school moderation work?

It can be valuable to carry out a whole-school moderation exercise and there are a number of approaches. Sometimes simply taking time to look at a range of work produced in year groups other than your own can be revealing; at other times a formal arrangement to review the work sample across years is most useful.

Whole-school moderation requires some commonality in the task, often writing, such as the record of a science experiment, a book review or a story. Each year group nominates a selection of pieces of work – perhaps at a high, medium and low standard. If multiple copies are made, these are then discussed and ranked. A more informal process is to display the samples in year group order and use them as the focus for discussion and comparison.

Is school-to-school moderation necessary?

School-to-school moderation is when pieces of work are assessed by teachers from several schools. Although it is no requirement to undertake this form of moderation, it can be beneficial. School-to-school moderation can ensure that the way the ‘standard’ (such as a performance descriptor) is applied in one school is similar to the way it’s applied in other schools. This can be particularly useful in single form entry schools where there is no-one else teaching a particular age group.

Written by Liz Twist, Head of Assessment Research and Product Development at NFER

With over 20 years’ experience in assessment development and research, Liz leads the teams developing NFER’s popular assessment products and research. She has also previously worked as deputy head of a combined school and taught both primary and secondary school pupils.

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