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Maximising impact: 9 simple steps to achieve effective moderation sessions

  • by: Laura Bailey, former school leader, experienced moderation manager and Pobble's Head of Moderation and Assessment.
  • On: 11, Apr 2024
34 min read

Ensure your moderation opportunities are purposeful and positive with my expert tips! Moderation isn't just about validating assessment judgments; it's a valuable opportunity to celebrate achievements, refine teaching practices, and seek support from colleagues. By following these steps, you'll navigate moderation sessions with ease, leaving feeling empowered and confident in your assessments.

1. Setting the purpose: Turning moderation into a learning opportunity
Agree on the purpose in advance. Moderation in its purest sense is about validating assessment judgements. However, your moderation sessions can also be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate curriculum provision, to consider the next steps for pupils, and to speak with your mentor / English Lead about aspects of the assessment criteria you would like further clarity on. The goal is to leave the session feeling more confident in your judgements but also use this as a learning opportunity and actively seek support and guidance from colleagues. When using Pobble’s moderation tool you have great flexibility in not just the purpose of the session but the delivery model. You can share writing collections in a live session or even work asynchronously over an agreed timeframe.

2. Building a robust evidence base: Ensuring comprehensive assessment discussions
Robust judgements are based on a secure evidence base. Make sure this is reflected in your moderation meeting and that you consider a range of writing opportunities for each pupil discussed. There is no magic number of how many pieces to consider, but depending on the time in the year 3-6 writing opportunities usually provide for a robust discussion. The key is to discuss a range of writing purposes whenever possible, to reflect the aims of the National Curriculum. 

3. Individualised assessment: Tailoring discussions to each child's journey
Remember to consider each child as an individual. Which are the pieces you have used for each child to inform your judgement? Which are the ones the child connected with the best? These may not be their most recent. Whichever pieces you use to inform your judgement will be the ones you direct your moderator towards through your discussion. 

4. Structured exploration: A clear process for reviewing writing collections
Have a clear process that you follow for exploring the writing together. I like to ask the class teacher to identify the starting piece as the one that they feel best represents the child as a writer. Read this piece in full together. Then, as the class teacher, celebrate the skills you feel the child has independently demonstrated within the piece. Then explore some further pieces in the collection to build a picture as to how consistent that skill application is. 

5. Clear visibility: Ensuring readability for all participants
Make sure both the teacher and moderator can clearly read the writing for themselves. Pobble’s moderation tool means that everyone has access to their own clear, high-quality copy of the writing. This is really important as both moderator and teacher can review transcriptional components but also take it in turns to read pieces in full aloud to consider the composition skills demonstrated. 

6. Focus on criteria: Keep discussions aligned with assessment standards
Keep the discussion focussed on the evidence in relation to the assessment criteria you are using. You do not need to share personal information about the child, in fact, doing so can lead to unconscious bias. When using Pobble’s moderation tool those whom you invite to the moderation file will not know the name of the child, they certainly do not need to be informed of whether English is an additional language, their absence % or their pupil premium status. Remember you are considering whether the assessment statements are evidenced, fully reflecting what the writer can do independently.

7. Active engagement: Reading aloud and listening for effectiveness
Read pieces in full and out loud to each other. When reading pieces really listen to how effective each piece is; is the purpose and audience maintained? Are the choices the writer is making showing an awareness of the reader? Taking an opportunity to listen is really beneficial, especially for those of you working in one-form entry settings. This provides you with an opportunity to step out of ‘marking mode’. It is really enjoyable and a great chance to celebrate how well writers in your class have grasped key skills and connected with the writing opportunity, without perhaps being distracted by the full stops (or lack of) or spelling mistakes. 

8. Using visual tools: The Windscreen Model for insightful discussions
At Pobble we use ‘The Windscreen Model (a visual assessment model) to map out the children’s judgements. At moderation sessions, we encourage teachers to choose some of the borderlines to have really great discussions about to help make final judgements, as no doubt these have been some of the toughest judgements to make. The windscreen can also be annotated so if you make some adjustments with your judgements through discussion then you can edit the windscreen model. A positive and purposeful moderation session is not just one where all judgements are validated, it is one where as a class teacher you leave feeling more confident that you have made accurate and robust judgements, even if you have concluded to amend some. That is brilliant professional development and reflective practice. Taking this approach you can then consider other children in your class that you did not have a chance to discuss; perhaps you have an increased confidence boost that you have made the right judgement for them; perhaps there are a couple you will now review again and consider adjusting. 

9. Take the lead: Guiding discussions for professional development
Remember that this is YOUR discussion, your professional development opportunity. You know your children best. Lead the discussion with your moderator. Take your time to refresh yourself on the writers selected - this is not a race, it is not a rush. Moderation is focused on the professional discussion and this is effective when you lead and engage in a two-way discussion. You have made the assessment judgements so you know you have the evidence. Whoever you are working with as your moderator (internal or external) may ask some further questions or ask to read some more writing, this is all part of a robust moderation process. Make sure you capture some of these key discussion points as you go along, be specific in your notes as to which are linked to individual pieces of writing and separate comments about the writing collection as a whole. You can use our reference work tool on Pobble moderation to do this efficiently throughout your moderation so you have an excellent record to return to when thinking about the next steps (for the pupil and the curriculum).

If you'd like further support to improve your confidence and the accuracy of your writing assessments check out how Pobble can help with quality training and access to our online moderation tool.

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