Processes, practice and challenges of assessment moderation in two university faculties

Year: 2016

Author: Beutel, Denise, Adie, Lenore

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Moderation is a quality assurance process that plays a central role in the teaching, learning and assessment cycle in higher education. While there is a growing body of research on teaching, learning and, to a lesser degree, assessment in higher education, the process of moderation of assessment has received even less attention. However, across the globe, higher education institutions are working in environments of increasing accountability with greater demands placed on them to provide evidence of quality and of the achievement of standards that assure that quality. Consequently, assessment and moderation of student performance are key aspects for higher education institutions to review and improve. In the moderation process, teaching team members develop a shared understanding of assessment requirements, standards, and evidence that demonstrates different qualities of performance. This process involves discussion of assessment tasks, criteria, standards and judgement decisions to ensure the validity and reliability of assessments, with the aim of improving the quality of the teaching and learning experience. In effect, it is the judgements of academic staff that maintain standards. Despite the inclusion of moderation practices in university assessment policies, the implementation of these practices is often problematic with the time required for such procedures, and the lack of evidence that the practice will result in greater reliability of assessments identified as key challenges. This paper reports on data collected through semi-structured interviews with 44 teaching academics across two faculties within one university. The purpose of this qualitative study was to reveal the understandings of moderation held by academic teaching staff in each faculty and to identify the moderation practices, processes and procedures utilised to gain insight into the challenges of effective moderation. The commonalities and differences between moderation in each faculty will be discussed along with the need for moderation to be considered holistically as an inherent part of teaching and learning, and the need for ongoing professional learning.