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Moderation


Introduction

The UniSA Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual section 3 refers to assessment methods operating in a valid and reliable framework whilst acknowledging that human judgment is a significant element in the process. It also identifies that moderation is an important part of the validity and reliability of assessment activities. The manual determines that:

"Processes which assure high quality assessment practices, including external benchmarking, are an important part of the University's quality assurance framework."

While the manual does not provide a definition of moderation, a working understanding can be framed as follows:

Moderation is a quality review and assurance process which supports the assessment setting and marking activities of course coordinators and their staff. It involves using other academics and qualified staff to perform tailored tasks to ensure that assessment tasks and marking are valid and reliable. Essentially, it is a checking process.

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Operation

Moderation is an internal control activity and, therefore, is a function of a cost/benefit approach. It cannot and is not designed to provide absolute assurance about the veracity of a particular assessment activity. It is there to provide a reasonable level of assurance that assessment activities have been undertaken appropriately and that there is a reasonable level of confidence of the results provided to students. There are generally a number of elements that affect the levels of confidence in a moderation process. Some of these are:

Staff should consider the levels of confidence and the objectives of the moderation task before designing a moderation strategy.

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Some moderation processes

Moderation essentially operates at two levels:

  1. at the assessment setting stage
  2. after marking (and before processing of final results)

The following section looks at these two levels and provides some ideas for course coordinators. The list should not be seen as exhaustive and moderation processes should be tailored to particular circumstances.

Assessment setting

This is probably the easiest of the two moderation processes. A number of strategies exist here.

The aim of moderating assessment tasks before students are asked to undertake them, is to address any ambiguities, vagueness, capacities, length, etc., issues which might cause concern to students.

After marking

After an assessment task has been marked there will often be a need to conduct some level of moderation on the results. The variety and degree of tasks can be considerable and will be a function of the objectives a course coordinator has determined. The following, however, might provide some assistance in framing those tasks:

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What happens if moderation detects a problem?

This can be a difficult question to address in some circumstances. While it is hoped that moderation supports the assessment activities, occasions will arise where the moderation will detect a problem. This is more of a concern at the marking stage rather than the assessment setting stage.

If a problem in marking is detected it cannot be ignored. Some form of action needs to undertaken but it will be up to course coordinators as to how they deal with it as it will be a function of the unique matter confronting them. Some areas of guidance are:

If it happens that the moderation has unearthed a serious issue in the marking process and the course coordinator is faced with time or resource constraints in addressing it, staff should consult their relevant Program Director and/or Head of School to discuss the various options that might be available.

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