The language of assessment and moderation

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In this topic, you are asked to familiarise yourself with some of the most common terms used around assessment and to think about the ideals of assessment. Please continue to use Dorothy Spiller's (2009) handbook: Principles of Assessment, to find out about the terms she mentions.

What is the difference between formative assessment and summative assessment?

Read through a description of these two types of assessment on the Carnegie Mellon University site, then write down two major differences between them.

  • To what extent do you use formative assessment in your courses?

You can find plenty of ideas for incorporating formative assessment in your courses on the West Virginia Department of Education web page Examples of Formative Assessment. As an example, observation can be used for formative assessment so, by clicking on observation, an explanation of how it can be used as formative assessment is offered.

For a quicker overview of a variety of examples of formative assessment, check out this video (2.47 min): Examples of formative evaluation. Note, he term evaluation is used to describe assessment.

Eight ideals or values for assessment

have emerged from the literature, and these should form the basis for all assessments.

  • Fairness: A fair assessment ensures that no student is disadvantaged. It may mean that, for example, a student with a disability is given opportunity to provide alternative evidence of his/her learning, or given more time to complete an assessment. the concept of inclusiveness of an assessment may also be relevant.
  • Validity: A valid assessment is one which measures what it is supposed to measure and one which assesses a representative sample of the course content (content validity). One should also consider how the method of testing is appropriate to your course or subject (construct validity). Validity is concerned with getting the right assessment (Reece & Walker, 2007).
  • Reliability: Reliability refers to the extent to which an assessment consistently measures what it is supposed to measure. Reliability is concerned with getting the assessment right (Reece & Walker, 2007).
  • Clarity: This ideal refers to the extent to which assessment instructions, requirements and feedback are communicated to the student.
  • Transparency: Transparency refers to the extent to which your students "know where the goalposts are" (Race, 2010).
  • Authenticity: There are two aspects to the authenticity of assessments. Self-authenticity refers to the extent to which an assessment avoids plagiarism, whilst real-world authenticity refers to the extent to which an assessment links to the actual profession/vocation that the student will eventually end up working in (Race, 2010).
  • Accountability: Refers to the extent to which assessments can be justified to all stakeholders, including students, employers, the institution, professional bodies and funding authorities.
  • Manageability: Race (2010) mentions two perspectives of manageability - efficiency for students (the value of time that students spend on the assessment) and efficiency for teachers (the value of time that a teacher spends in preparing and marking an assessment).

Assessment and moderation policies

Whether you teach at a school, polytechnic, university or other tertiary training provider, there will be a set of guidelines and policies that govern the way you assess students and moderate.

  • Are you familiar with your organisation's assessment and moderation policies?

For those participants who currently work at the Otago Polytechnic, you should at least be familiar with academic policies AP0900.04 Assessment and AP0908.00 Moderation of Assessment, both of which are accessible on the OP intranet.

  • What do you understand by moderation of assessment? And what is the purpose of moderation?

Many tertiary institutions have made their moderation policies and guidelines available on the Web. An example is Nelson Marlborough's Moderation Policy.

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Think about the assessments in one of the courses that you teach.
  • Develop a grid with a rating scale (say from 1 to 5) to see how your assessments stack up against the eight ideals outlined above.
  • After completing the evaluation of your assessments, are you able to identify any improvements that you could make to your assessments? For example, could you include more formative assessments?
  • Consider how closely the programme in which you teach follows your organisation's assessment and moderation policies.

Remember, though, that it is extremely challenging to design an assessment that rates highly in all of the above eight ideals, but that we should do our best!!


  • Race, P. (2014). Making learning happen: A guide to post-compulsory education. (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications.
  • Reece, I., & Walker, S. (2007). Teaching, training and learning: A practical guide. (6th ed.). Tyne and Wear: Business education Publishers Limited.