Using moderation to identify and support student learning needs

​​​​Hume Central Secondary College Principal Irene Iliadis prioritises moderation in the first few weeks of term, to quickly identify student needs and differentiate teaching practice.​

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​Students starting at Hume Central have abilities spread across seven different curriculum levels in literacy and numeracy. Principal Irene Iliadis prioritises moderation within a formative assessment cycle to quickly identify where their students are, differentiate teaching and provide feedback to immediately move learning forward.

The college is a large high school of over 1100 students and 133 teaching staff spread across three campuses. Three out of every four students are from language backgrounds other than English, and one in three students have been in Australia less than five years.

'Many of our Year 7 students come to us with huge gaps in their learning which we need to address to prevent our students entering the later year levels at a major disadvantage,' said Irene.

To address the large range of student abilities, Hume Central strives to make sure that students feel strongly connected to their school, are supported to learn effectively, and develop positive attitudes and behaviours. Assessment moderation within an Evidence-Based Inquiry Cycle for Continuous Improvement is an important part of this approach.

In action: Moderating English assessments

Year 7 English teachers start the moderation process by planning together to develop common units of work based on Victorian Curriculum F−10 English curriculum.​ Teachers administer the moderation process in two linked parts:

  • a common formative assessment task (CFAT), and
  • a common assessment task (CAT).

This year, the Term 1 unit focused on narrative writing. The topic was 'The Secret'. A new feature of the Hume Central approach is the delivery of the narrative drafting process within a continual teaching and learning cycle​. Students have an opportunity to evaluate, redraft, and improve their writing weekly or fortnightly.

Moderating the formative assessment task

In week 1, Term 1, all Year 7 students were asked to write a short piece on the topic. Teachers took a collective focus to teaching narrative writing, using explicit teaching strategies backed by examples, to develop the skills of narrative writing, drafting and editing within a teaching and learning cycle. Year 7 teachers will conduct the first moderation in Week 3, after a couple of cycles of drafting, redrafting, and explicit teaching. For the session, eight teachers from across both junior campuses submit student work samples organised into three categories: high, medium or low for review and rating prior to the moderation meeting. They award a score for each piece of work and come to the meeting prepared to have a rigorous professional discussion to justify their score. They identify the particular features of a high, medium or low standard of work and provide evidence from each sample. Scores are linked to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 Assessment standards and based on criteria in the NAPLAN rubric on narrative and persuasive text.

A key outcome of this formative moderation process is the identification of student learning needs based on evidence, and identification of strategies to move student learning forward. This is also an opportunity for teachers to identify their own learning needs, engage in professional learning using internal or external expertise and incorporate new skills into their own practice with the purpose of enhancing student learning.

Moderating the common assessment task (CAT)

In the second part of the moderation, the process is repeated using samples of work from the same students toward the end of the unit. Student work is assessed using a rubric and scores assigned. Key to this stage of the process is a collaborative discussion of how well the improvement strategies that the teachers used worked, and whether, how and why identified strategies were modified. Teachers reflect on whether the change in their practice has had enough of an impact on student learning. The team hold weekly meetings to share and collaborate about the strategies that they use within the context of their Professional Learning Communities.

Why we link assessment moderation to a formative assessment cycle

Moderation within a formative assessment cycle makes learning visible to the students and invites them to take ownership of it. This is an excellent example of student agency.

Embedding the moderation within the teaching learning cycle, and linking it closely to a formative assessment process promotes student engagement with their own writing, and allows them to celebrate their growth. Students will often look at earlier drafts of work and say "I've progressed so much."

Key takeaways for teachers and school leaders

  • Integrating your moderation process within a structured, formative assessment cycle can make it powerful and immediate tool to identify appropriate teaching strategies as well as an assessment strategy.
  • Moderation is an excellent example of working collaboratively within a professional learning community, inviting teachers to share planning processes, develop a deep understanding of specific curriculum areas and strategies that support a wide range of student abilities.
  • Using a two part moderation process is a powerful way to provide evidence of student learning and the strategies that produced it.

Explore the latest professional practice note

A practice note has been developed to assist teachers to use assessment moderation within a teaching and learning cycle. See:

​This note is a part of a series of professional practice notes to support improvement in teaching.

For queries about the professional practice notes, email: professional.practice@edumail.vic.gov.au

For more information, see: Professional Practice Elements