DSC assessment moderation guidelines
What is assessment moderation?
A cyclical process in five stages (see figure 1) that assures systematic fairness in assessment by including internal and external processes where multiple stakeholders identify, agree upon, assure and monitor standards (see figure 2).
Figure 1: Phases of the assessment moderation cycle
Phase 1: Designing assessment for equity (fairness and consistency)
Focus: planning for the quality of assessment tasks with reference to course and program learning outcomes and to achieve fairness and consistency.
Points to check:
- Do all students have equal opportunity to demonstrate learning outcomes?
- Is there any possible bias or discrimination in the assessment criteria, their possible interpretation or application ?
Processes: informal or formal peer scrutiny, or review by a committee or professional accreditation body.
Effective Practice : Calibrating assessment tasks (Examinations in the School of Property, Construction and Project Management)
The School of Property, Construction and Project Management (PCPM) has developed rigorous moderation processes and tools to moderate examinations. In collaboration with the responsible program manager, the course coordinator appoints one or more examination moderators to check a proposed exam before it is released. Using a pro forma (refer PCPM Exam Moderation Checklist), the moderator reviews content coverage, technical accuracy, the academic validity of the examination questions and the marking scheme, clarity of questions and instructions and the quality of the layout. The course coordinator actions agreed amendments to create a new moderated version that is then referred to the program manager for approval. Only after associate dean or program manager approval is the exam finalised.
Why is assessment moderation important?
Equivalence and comparability
Where courses are delivered at multiple locations, assessment moderation will require consideration and planning for equivalence and comparability.
Equivalence: maintaining quality standards across multiple offerings in terms of course management, learning outcomes, resources, assessment, teaching, work-integrated learning (WIL) and internationalisation.
Comparability: extent to which offerings have been contextualised and customised to meet local needs, including those of the student cohort, to achieve equivalence.
Contextualisation: Customisation of learning activities, resources, assessment, delivery, teaching practice and student learning support to facilitate learning for a specific student cohort.
See RMIT program and course review process for further information
Who should be involved in moderation?
Course coordinators have principal responsibility for assessment design and quality, including moderation processes, but this responsibility needs to involve multiple stakeholders in ongoing discussions and genuine exchange.
Other stakeholders include teaching teams (local and international) and program advisory committees and may also include professional and industry bodies, relevant community partners and contacts.
Genuine collaboration and reciprocity among teaching teams and other stakeholders is especially important when designing curriculum and assessment in transnational teaching contexts. This means:
Discussions need to happen:
Figure 2: Key stakeholders in assessment moderation
Recommendations for effective practice
Assessment moderation should involve ongoing dialogue
Involve students in understanding assessment criteria
Consistency and validation of assessment (HESF standard 1.4.3)
- Requirement for consistency between assessment and demonstration of learning outcomes and validation of student attainment and grades awarded.
Monitoring and review (HESF standard 5.3)
- Requirements around monitoring, review and improvement of courses, including assessment moderation processes, such as comprehensive reviews of assessment methods and students’ achievement of learning outcomes (at least every 7 years); interim monitoring of student progress (grade distribution); and regular peer review of student success against comparable programs of study from another provider (student progress, assessment methods, grading with cohort analysis) to ‘calibrate’ assessors’ grading.
The RMIT Assessment processes (clauses 3.1-3.130) (clauses 3.1-3.30) set out practices for moderating assessment during the teaching period, such as specification of a marking scheme, allocation of a single marker (and a moderator) and double marking of assessment where there are new markers in a course. To ensure consistency, cross marking and review of assessors’ marking may occur.
Consensus moderation (clause 3.1)
Before results are finalised, Course Assessment Committees (CACs) moderate assessment by checking grade distribution and results across different offerings of the same course.
Reporting to CAC (clause 3.25.6)
Course coordinators report to the CAC on any issues arising with assessment, reasons for adjustments made to marks, and any other matter relevant to approval of final results Adjustments need to be documented, with reasons included. All narrow fails (45-49) must be double marked (clause 3.7).
CAC moderation (clause 3.23)
- may lead to adjustment of student results to overcome disparities in the difficulty of assessments and/or severity of marking
- adjustments must be made before the marks for the assessment are communicated to students where possible (clause 3.23.1).
Program assessment boards – PABs (clause 3.13)
PABs consider CAC recommendations on student or program cohort performance, how effective program assessment is and whether it needs enhancement.
Equivalence and comparability
RMIT program and course review process includes provisions for assuring equivalence and comparability of courses offered across multiple locations.
Section 24 of the Program and Course Policy states requirements for RMIT programs delivered by partners.
Bloxham, S., Hughes, C., & Adie, L. (2016). What's the point of moderation? A discussion of the purposes achieved through contemporary moderation practices. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(4), 638-653.
Higher Education Standards Framework Threshold Standards 2015 (Cth) (Standard 5.3) – Download from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2015L01639)
Krause, K., Scott, G., Aubin, K., Alexander, H., Angelo, T., Campbell, S., Carroll, M., Deane, E., Nulty, D., Pattison, P., Probert, B., Sachs, J., Solomonides, I., Vaughan, S. (2013). Assuring final year subject and program achievement standards through inter-university peer review and moderation.