Quality assuring assessment moderation processes: horses for courses?

Year: 2013

Author: Grainger, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Quality assurance of assessment standards is a growing tertiary concern nationally and internationally. In tertiary education in Australia, the focus on accountability is evidenced by the formulation of such bodies as the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority (TEQSA) and a new focus on threshold standards outlined in the Higher Education Standards Framework (Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; 2011). According to item 5.5 of the framework (p.16) there is a requirement to benchmark standards against similar accredited courses of study offered by other higher education providers. This is in keeping with national and international attention on academic standards in research quality (e.g. OECD, 2011), and increasing accountability for quality.
Quality assurance of assessment standards is usually achieved by moderation processes, of which there are three main types commonly used in universities in Queensland: These moderation processes are referred to as the Calibration model, the Expert model and the Conferencing model.
This paper reports on a pilot project which aims to identify and evaluate the success of these moderation processes undertaken in the School of Science, Education and Engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). The project will initially identify the current moderation processes and the efficacy of these processes in relation to specific course characteristics in education courses. These moderation processes will be correlated with specific course characteristics including number of tutors and types of assessment tasks. Focussed interviews are used to determine the perceived success of consensus moderation processes in relation to identified course characteristics. This will lead to the development and trialling of a framework that gives due consideration to this ‘match' of moderation process and course characteristics. Preliminary investigation suggests that there is a need to consider both the nature of the course and the moderation processes adopted. A variety of moderation process ought to be utilized. Small courses with fewer tutors should utilize a Conference model approach. Larger courses may be best suited to the Expert model or the Calibration model or a hybrid process.