Moderation is an invaluable step in summative assessment design and delivery. Moderation aims to ensure that all assessments are fit for purpose, align with learning outcomes, are appropriately timed, well designed, and not onerous for students. Moderation can also act as a professional development opportunity for staff to upskill and rethink assessment practices, and reflect on assessments that ‘did not work’ or that generated significant marking workloads.

Moderation ensures that educators are making consistent decisions around grading and feedback to students, both across a cohort of students and in comparison with their colleagues.

A robust moderation process:

  • Helps ensure there is uniform interpretation and application of standards and criteria.
  • Verifies that assessment tasks are fair, valid and consistent.
  • Verifies that grading is fair, aligned with criteria made available to students, and consistent across a cohort of students.
  • Maintains standards across the programme, School and Faculty/Division.
  • Supports the development of future assessment tasks.

There are a number of times in a paper or programme cycle where moderation is valuable. Moderation can take place before the students receive the task (pre-moderation) and/or after the students have completed the task but before the students receive their grades (post-moderation).


Before students are given an assessment task, your task can be evaluated by colleagues alongside the paper outline and relevant criteria to check that your task and criteria:

  • Are fair, clear, align with the specified learning outcomes, and reflect the percentage value of the task within the paper.
  • Do not contain language or concepts that may be ambiguous or biased; do not call for cultural, contextual or tacit knowledge.
  • Allow sufficient time for students to complete.
  • Are detailed enough for students.
  • Are inclusive and accessible, and can be modified as needed for students.
  • Are appropriate for all students and can be completed equitably regardless of location and paper engagement mode.

During the pre-moderation process, you have an opportunity to reflect on whether you have included a range of assessment task types, recognising that students have a range of learning preferences.


After students have completed the assessment and you have graded the tasks, post-moderation with a colleague can highlight any issues around consistency, fairness, and unconscious scaling. This can be done, for example, by providing a colleague with a representative sample of low/middle/high scoring anonymous student work (with your grades and notes removed).

Your colleague would then refer to the task and criteria and grade the work independently, helping you to:

  • Check that you have applied the marking criteria consistently across the student cohort.
  • Check that your colleagues’ application of criteria to student work is consistent with your own.
  • Check that students have interpreted the task appropriately.
  • Identify any instances of unusual grade distribution.
  • Identify areas for improvement both in task design and your teaching practice.

Post-moderation outcomes can also help you to evaluate student progress and success over a number of years and paper iterations. Post-moderation encourages you to reflect on your teaching, curriculum and assessment design.


For papers or programmes that are available across different locations, taught via different modes and by multiple, or non-Waikato staff (in particular in the case of partnership arrangements with other universities), moderation is critical to ensure consistency.

It may also be advisable to hold a consensus marking meeting, where teaching staff meet to review and reach consensus on the application of assessment criteria and grading. It is important that all involved staff undertaking assessment develop a shared understanding of the application of marking criteria - is an A grade in one location equivalent to A grade in another location? Are the assessments in one location as difficult as they are in another location?

Cross moderation may also take place between two or more institutions. This practice is particularly common in the Private Training Establishment (PTE) and polytechnic sector due to New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) requirements.

Professional accreditation bodies may require the University to undertake moderation in conjunction with the professional body and/or with other accredited institutions. In such instances, the moderation processes are typically highly regulated, and the implementation of recommendations is closely monitored.