Decisions and marking

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Assessment Decisions and Marking

Another key aspect of the assessment process is moderation.


The intent of moderation is to "verify that assessment design and assessor judgements are valid, fair, consistent and reliable; meet approved learning outcomes; and are appropriate to the learning environment". (Otago Polytechnic Academic Policy: Moderation of Assessment, AP908.00, 2007, p 1.)

Pre-Assessment Moderation

Pre-assessment moderation occurs after the assessment has been designed but before it is given to students. This can be likened to an editing process before publication.

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Consider the following question:
  • Check out the Otago Polytechnic Moderation of Assessment policy (on Moodle for enrolled participants).

Post-Assessment Moderation

Post-assessment moderation occurs after the assessment has been marked but before it is returned to students.

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Consider the following question:
  • Check out the Otago Polytechnic Moderation of Assessment policy (on Moodle for enrolled participants).

Explore Further

Consider how moderation is used in your context.

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1. Explore the topic of moderation further.

  • Moderation processes - this resource is aimed at schools but contains concepts that are transferable to any context.
  • Principles for moderation of assessment - a handy guide sheet from the Australian Catholic University.
  • Kuzich, S., Groves, R., O’Hare, S., & Pelliccione, L. (2010). Building team capacity: sustaining quality in assessment and moderation practices in a fully online unit. In the proceedings of the ATN Assessment Conference 2010 University of Technology Sydney. Retrieved from

2. Share your thoughts about moderation of assessment on the discussion forum - What is your experience of moderation in your teaching context?

  • Why is moderation important?
  • What are the differences between pre and post-assessment moderation?

Marking Criteria

Having clear and sound marking criteria is essential to the marking process. This not only ensures that the student is as clear as possible regarding expectations it also ensures standards of consistency if there is more than one marker.

University of Western Sydney identify some some key check points with marking criteria. Do the criteria for your assessment task:

  • clearly identify the important characteristics that students’ work will demonstrate to show you that they have achieved the learning outcome/s?
  • use concise language and avoid unnecessary detail?
  • specify only one behaviour per criterion?
  • avoid describing standards of performance?
  • represent an achievable task for students?
  • represent an achievable workload for staff?

From: Armstrong, S., Chan, S., Malfroy, J., & Thomson, R. (2008). Assessment Guide. Implementing criteria and standards-based assessment. Sydney: University of Western Sydney (UWS). (p 16.)

  • For more information on marking criteria refer to this UWS Assessment Guide, starting at page 9. Section 9 from page 43 has a number of case studies using different kinds of assessment criteria.


Very simply put, a rubric is a grid used to help define marks given to an assessment according to specific criteria. If used correctly this can be a fabulous tool to manage consistency with marking. If carefully developed a rubric has the advantages of ensuring consistency across a wide range of scripts and helps overcome potential bias; such as a marker giving more credit to someone who has focused on the marker's favourite areas.

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Information about rubrics

The web page Why Rubrics? What's all the Hype? From The Online Teacher Resource can provide a more detailed definition. Scroll down to the section on what are Rubrics? for a general introduction.

If you put 'Rubrics' into the Search box on the top left of the TeAchnology website you discover that they offer an incredible amount of information on this topic. The information is aimed at primary and secondary education but the knowledge is transferable to tertiary teaching and learning.

The University of Waterloo also provides a clear and easy to follow information sheet on rubrics, their development and use.

Examples of rubrics.

Tips for Marking Essays

  • Plan your time in advance.
  • Ensure you are clear about and are familiar with the marking criteria or mark allocations.
  • Provide feedback on common mistakes once.
  • Identify common mistakes and aim your feedback at these rather than writing the same comment on each script.
  • Save time by marking electronically.

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Resources about marking

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