Standards-driven reform years 1-10: Moderation an optional extra?

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While externally moderated standards-based assessment has been practised in Queensland senior schooling for more than three decades, there has been no such practice in the middle years. With the introduction of standards at state and national levels in these years, teacher judgement as developed in moderation practices is now vital. This paper argues, that in this context of assessment reform, standards intended to inform teacher judgement and to build assessment capacity are necessary but not sufficient for maintaining teacher and public confidence in schooling. Teacher judgement is intrinsic to moderation, and to professional practice, and can no longer remain private. Moderation too is intrinsic to efforts by the profession to realise judgements that are defensible, dependable and open to scrutiny. Moderation can no longer be considered an optional extra and requires system-level support especially if, as intended, the standards are linked to system-wide efforts to improve student learning. In presenting this argument we draw on an Australian Research Council funded study with key industry partners (the Queensland Studies Authority and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment of the Republic of Ireland). The data analysed included teacher interview data and additional teacher talk during moderation sessions. These were undertaken during the initial phase of policy development. The analysis identified those issues that emerge in moderation meetings that are designed to reach consistent, reliable judgements. Of interest are the different ways in which teachers talked through and interacted with one another to reach agreement about the quality of student work in the application of standards. There is evidence of differences in the way that teachers made compensations and trade-offs in their award of grades, dependent on the subject domain in which they teach. This article concludes with some empirically derived insights into moderation practices as policy and social events.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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ERA Access