For more information on moderation or Unit Coordinator roles and responsibilities, please see the Assessment Policy, Results Policy and Units Policy and all of their attachments in the Policy & Procedure Manager.
Moderation is a quality assurance strategy directed at the consistency, validity and fairness of assessment for Unit Coordinators, markers and students. It is a process of ensuring equivalence and comparability by independently evaluating consistency in the standard of marking (and provision of feedback) across individual assessment items or whether significant deviations have occurred from a previously defined standard. It involves collaborative decision-making about expectations and assessment criteria and begins prior to the submission of items for assessment. For this reason moderation should be viewed as an ongoing process that occurs pre-assessment; at the point-of-assessment; and post-assessment.
The goal of moderation is to provide students with an equal opportunity for fair and accurate assessment regardless of the marker or where the marking has taken place. It is required for at least one of the pre-Assessment, point-of-Assessment or post-Assessment periods for each assessment item and is mandatory for all assessments weighted 25% or above (though 'set answer' questions such as multiple-choice and true/false do not need to be moderated at the point-of-assessment). Unit Coordinators may also use their discretion to conduct moderation for other assessments weighted below 25% if they wish.
The sample size and scope of assessment submissions moderated for each assessment component should be sufficient to establish whether significant issues or deviations have occurred in the marking/feedback strategy applied by the original markers. For this reason it is important that the Unit Coordinator reviews the marks for a range of grades that have been awarded. At Murdoch the recommended moderation sample for TNE is the greater of ten scripts or 10% of the submissions per affiliate, per assessment component weighted 25% or above. The Australian Learning & Teaching Council ('ALTC') also recommends that outliers (i.e. the highest and lowest scoring papers) and all papers that have been assessed a fail grade should also be moderated.
Moderation in Assessment Design
Where possible, engaging markers at the design and development stage of assessments is more likely to lead to stronger understandings of what is expected from students and what marking criteria mean. For this reason, it is useful to design assessment criteria/marking guides in consultation with markers, University colleagues and those experienced in assessment design. In the case of TNE offerings, the expertise, local knowledge and student engagement capacities of Murdoch staff, partner institutions and their teaching affiliates can be invaluable in developing and maintaining successful transnational programs and ensuring a trusting and collegial relationship. In units delivered transnationally, it may also be useful to design assessments in consultation with the affiliate lecturers. Assessment design should also include factoring in the time that moderation processes take when setting due dates (i.e. setting an assignment submission in the last week of Trimester is highly discouraged, as the extra time needed to moderate a large sample may lead to delays in students receiving feedback prior to exams/the results submission deadline).
Unit Coordinators should notify their Affiliate Lecturer(s) of their expectations on the standard of marking and the feedback provided to students as early as possible. It is important that markers have the necessary marking guides/rubrics no later than the assessment due date (though best practise is to provide them prior to the commencement of the teaching period, for example hidden from students on LMS). Marker training exercises and consensus/pre-marking meetings are also useful in establishing assessment requirements, standards, expectations and potential divergent answers to assessment questions so that markers can be confident of making use of a full marking range.
Affiliate Lecturers should forward marked samples to the Unit Coordinator for moderation as soon as possible after receiving the assignments because students must be provided feedback within fifteen University working days from when the assessment was submitted. The sample assessments should represent a range of results and the ALTC also recommends that outliers (ie the lowest and highest scoring papers) and all papers that have been assessed a fail grade should be moderated. The Unit Coordinator has the discretion to select which students’ papers they wish to see for any given assessment to ensure that they are not looking at the work of the same students for every assessment in their unit (notwithstanding that outlier students tend to produce consistent results). Murdoch University strongly discourages the scaling of marks to “fit a predetermined distribution,” so in essence, it is the marker (and their approach and interpretation of the marking guides/rubrics) rather than the marks that are moderated.
Once the Unit Coordinator has moderated their samples by ‘double marking’, they should contact the Affiliate Lecturer with feedback on both the score/grade that has been awarded as well as the feedback that the Affiliate Lecturer has intended to provide the students. They should also state any changes required (in reference to both specific papers and more broadly if applicable) prior to the release of papers and results to students if they deem the Affiliate Lecturer has not followed the marking guide properly or has marked too generously/harshly.
In the event that changes to marks and/or feedback is required, any adjustment of marks should be demonstrably fair and equitable for each student affected. Furthermore, the Unit Coordinator needs to be able to justify all such adjustments. Therefore:
- Post-hoc scaling of marks across a cohort of students (and especially on the basis of a small number of inconsistent results) is strongly discouraged;
- Simply reducing the top scores or increasing the bottom scores is also not supported; and
- Corrections to marks must be completed as soon as possible.
The Affiliate Lecturer will finalise their marks once the Unit Coordinator has finished the moderation process and communicated their instructions to the Affiliate. Once the Affiliate has made the necessary changes (if any), assessments must then be released to the students within fifteen university working days after the deadline of the specific assignment for them to view their marks and feedback.
It is particularly important that each student is advised of their final moderated result (ideally via LMS) before sitting their Final Exam. Once all of the component marks that are maintained by the Affiliate Lecturer have been finalised, these should be provided to the Unit Coordinator as soon as possible (i.e. all ‘continuing assessments’ prior to the final exam for Singapore and Malaysia-based Affiliate Lecturers; all assessments including the final exam for Dubai-based Affiliate Lecturers). It is highly encouraged that the Gradebook function is used on LMS so that Unit Coordinators can download this information easily.