For the past 2 years, seven secondary sites in East Adelaide have conducted a collaborative exercise in the moderation of achievement standards in the Australian Curriculum. The joint effort of the 7 schools features in this post as an example of best practice. Their effort is an endorsement of the positive effects of collaboration across schools, where there is a specific and manageable focus, high levels of support and interest, and creative organisation and planning.
Several significant features of the program stand out:
the number of teachers involved
Across the 7 schools – Adelaide High School, Charles Campbell College, Glenunga International High School, The Norwood Morialta High School, Marryatville High School, Open Access College and Marden Senior College – more than 700 teachers are involved.
the level of planning and organisation
Not surprisingly, given the number of schools and teachers involved, the level of planning and organisation is considerable and covers:
- activities held at each individual school prior to the joint half-day training session
- the preparation of all materials to be used on the day, including those from the individual teacher (folios of student work at set achievement standards)
- the logistics of planning the movement of staff on the day, across the 7 sites
- the setting up of relevant work groups (‘tables’), based on learning areas, for the day
- the appointment and preparation of ‘facilitators’
- feedback and review arrangements for the day
the involvement of middle and executive level leaders
- executive leaders are responsible for all the planning and problem-solving across the 7 schools, and work with their individual principals to ensure that colleagues are prepared for the collaborative moderation
- middle-level leaders – Coordinators – at each host school are responsible for working with their equivalent Learning Area Leaders across the same faculty in the 7 schools. This group of leaders organises the logistics for each site: table groups, facilitators, catering…
- principals are responsible for supporting their executive leaders and their Learning Area leaders to deliver the outcomes
- Education Directors also provide important support
the focus and ‘intensity’ of the specific half-day pd program
The actual half-day program ( 2.5 hours) is very ‘tight’ in the sense that that the program is both highly structured – focused on an exercise in ’table’ or group moderation followed by one on ’paired’ teacher moderation – and run to a very precise time frame.
the educational ‘leverage’ of the program
Given the number of teachers involved, and the limited but intense nature of the activities, the whole exercise represents a very high level of ‘educational leverage’ in terms of outcomes: the educational outputs go well beyond the level of input required.
In terms of educational outcomes, it is possible to identify 2 broad streams.
The first stream covers outcomes that are immediate and easily recognisable in terms of professional learning:
- teachers improve their overall understanding and awareness of the Australian Curriculum and the fundamental role of moderation within this curriculum
- teachers develop their individual understanding of the nature and purpose of achievement standards in the Australian Curriculum
- teachers share understanding of the A C achievement standards, which in turn leads to greater confidence and consistency in their professional judgements of student achievement
- teachers relate the description of achievement standards to real student work samples
- teachers have the opportunity to discuss and debate the designated achievement standard and what it ‘looks like’ in student work
- teachers focus on the importance of ‘evidence’ from student work to defend teacher judgement
- there is constant reinforcement of the need for fair, consistent and defensible teacher judgement and equivalent attention is devoted to how this is best achieved
- teachers have the opportunity to have their efforts validated and recognised by their peers
The second stream of outcomes relates to deeper level and more formative professional learning:
- teachers are reminded of the inherent need to review, adjust and expand their teaching and assessment practices to maximise student learning and success
- teachers are given the opportunity to compare and contrast their own efforts in areas such as curriculum and assessment design with those of their peers
- teachers are reminded of the level of planning and organisation required of them in relation to the assessment practices embedded in the Australian Curriculum
- there is reinforcement of the reality that while many aspects of teaching are necessarily ’private’, valid and defensible assessment can only occur in an ‘external’, ‘public’ or ‘peer-reviewed’ environment
- teachers see how critical it is that achievement standards in the Australian Curriculum are described explicitly, precisely and fairly so that overall student success can be maximised
- the whole process models how important it is that professional respect, safety and integrity are maintained for all participants by creating an open and non-threatening professional environment
- teachers come to understand how important it is to reflect on their own practice
- teachers experience how important it is to share practice, understandings and new approaches and strategies
- teachers come to understand the fundamental importance of language in assessment and, more directly, their need to understand the language of assessment in relation to their learning area(s)
The half-day program in more detail
Prior to the half-day session teachers at the individual schools involved need to collect student work. This consists of 3 separate folders of student work, with work in each folder graded at one of three agreed levels (in the latest exercise it was high A, A/B and C/D respectively). Each folder of work at the agreed level includes 3+ assessment tasks, with copies of student work, the task sheet attached to the work sample, relevant rubrics and the relevant Australian Curriculum Achievement Standard for the student work samples.
Also prior to the half-day session, each of the seven schools conducts the standard Verbs and Nouns activity in relation to the Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards.
At the half-day session, teachers are organised in tables of 6. Each individual table is made up of teachers from the same learning area for an identified year level. All staff are reminded of the protocol covering their access to the material being moderated. A facilitator at each table leads the group through 4 specific exercises:
the first exercise is a revision of the Verbs and Nouns activity, specifically in relation to the Achievement Standard at the designated year level. Once again, this is to reinforce common understandings in relation to Achievement Standards.
the second exercise relates integrally to the first and is called table moderation. The 6 teachers at each table, working as a group, moderate a common assessment folio of one student’s work provided by the host school. 40 minutes is allocated for the combined first 2 exercises.
the third exercise is called paired moderation. The 6 teachers at the table, divided into pairs, moderate the work samples that have been brought to the session. As described above, each teacher has brought 3 folders of student work, one at each of the 3 designated levels (high A, A/B and C/D). Effectively, each pair at the table moderates the work of another pair and each teacher moderates 6 folders of work. The teacher reads a folder, makes relevant notes and awards an ‘on balance’ grade. The folders of students work are swapped between the pair of teachers. 60 minutes is allocated for this exercise.
the fourth exercise is called constructing feedback. Working together, using their own notes, and completing a special Peer Review sheet, each teacher pair will provide a considered moderation response to the teacher. Amongst other information, this Peer Review sheet will show the grade allocated by each of the moderating teachers. 25 minutes is allocated for this exercise.
For principals keen to find out more about the East Adelaide work, please contact:
Wendy Johnson, Principal, Glenunga International High School
Additionally, the DECD publication that the East Adelaide schools have recommended is, Moderation Matters: A guide to leading collaborative moderation in schools (2016), available on the DECD intranet (LearnLink).