The Best Moderation Methods Strengths and Weakness

Unlock educational excellence with our guide to moderation methods. Ensure fairness, accuracy, and consistency throughout the assessment process.

Best Guide: Moderation Methods Strengths and Weaknesses

moderation methods and process picture

Assessment and Moderation in Education and Training Systems

In education, moderation methods are the threads that weave consistency, fairness, and accuracy into the fabric of assessment decisions.

Find Your Way With Our List of Moderation Methods

When unpacking assessment in educational contexts, you need an understanding of the various moderation methods. Explore the strengths and weaknesses of common moderation methods here. You will see that each moderation method serves as a unique compass in the pursuit of educational excellence.

Strap In: Understanding Moderation Methods

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Malcolm X

Moderation methods serve as the guardians of educational integrity. This is because they ensure that assessments are fair and accurate. Informed decisions are crucial, therefore this guide aims to provide a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of common moderation methods.

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Why is moderation important in the assessment process?

Moderation ensures consistency, fairness, and accuracy in assessment decisions. Therefore it acts as an important quality control mechanism. Moderating processes check that assessments align with standards. They also provide reliable insights into learners’ achievements.

The List of 10 Moderation Methods

1. Internal Moderation Methods: Collaborative Foundations

Examples of Strengths:

  • Fosters collaboration among assessors within the institution.
  • Promotes consistent assessment practices.
  • Cost-effective for institutions.

Examples of Weaknesses:

  • May lack external perspectives, potentially leading to bias.
  • Risks insularity in assessment decisions.

According to Black and Wiliam (1998), internal moderation is a cornerstone of formative assessment. Thus emphasizing the importance of collaboration among educators for continuous improvement.

How internal moderation promotes collaboration among assessors

Internal moderation encourages assessors within the same institution to work together. This then fosters a shared understanding of assessment practices. This collaboration therefore enhances consistency and contributes to effective educational outcomes.

For example, after individual assessments, trainers and moderators can convene for an internal moderation session. Through collaborative discussions, they ensure that the assessments align with QCTO or another Quality Council criteria. This process fosters consistency in assessment across different trainers, thus meeting the NQF standards.

2. External Moderation Methods: A Fresh Lens

A South African university must adhere to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) criteria. Therefore external moderation involves an independent expert reviewing assessments. The external moderator then ensures that the assessments meet CHE standards, from an unbiased perspective. As a result, the external moderation process guarantees national consistency and alignment with the NQF.

Strengths of External Moderation:

  • Provides an objective external review of assessments.
  • Ensures consistency across different institutions.
  • Brings a fresh and unbiased perspective.

Weaknesses of External Moderation:

  • Logistically complex and time-consuming.
  • Varies in the expertise of external moderators.

Hargreaves (1994) emphasizes the role of external moderation in maintaining standards across institutions which then fosters a sense of trust in the educational system.

While external moderation provides an objective external review, logistical complexities and variations in the expertise of external moderators can pose challenges. Planning and coordination are therefore essential to mitigate these issues.

3. Double Marking: Ensuring Thoroughness

Double marking specifically involves multiple assessors reviewing assessments. This then reduces the likelihood of individual biases. This collaborative approach ensures a thorough and fair evaluation, enhancing the overall reliability of the assessment.


  • Ensures a thorough review by involving multiple assessors.
  • Reduces the likelihood of individual biases.
  • Enhances assessment reliability.


  • Resource-intensive and requires coordination.
  • May still result in differences between assessors.

Harlen and Deakin Crick (2002) argue that double marking is a valuable method to enhance the reliability of assessments by minimizing individual biases.

Enhancing Reliability in Professional Development Courses

For example, in an accredited professional development course, the application of double marking would involve two assessors independently completing assessments. Both assessors then compare their evaluations, discussing any discrepancies to arrive at a consensus. This process therefore enhances the reliability of assessments.

4. Blind Marking: Unveiling Objectivity

Implementing blind marking can be logistically challenging, especially in large-scale assessments. To ensure anonymity without compromising the efficiency of the assessment process therefore requires careful planning and execution.


  • Reduces potential bias by masking learner identities.
  • Leads to more objective assessment decisions.


  • Blind marking can be logistically challenging to implement.
  • May not address all sources of bias.

The Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management (1999) suggests that blind marking is effective in mitigating bias and promoting fairness in assessment.

Mitigating Bias in Skills Development Programs

Blind marking could be applied by concealing learner identities during assessments. This then mitigates potential bias and ensures that assessments are solely based on performance. In addition, this aligns with QCTO’s commitment to fair and impartial evaluations.

5. Standardization of Assessors: Ensuring Consistency


  • Ensures all assessors apply the same criteria and standards.
  • Leads to consistent and fair assessment outcomes.


  • Requires ongoing monitoring and training for assessors.

According to Guskey (2003), standardization of assessors is essential for maintaining consistency and fairness, but ongoing training is necessary to ensure its effectiveness.

6. Calibration Meetings: Establishing Consistency

Since calibration meetings facilitate discussions among assessors, they establish a shared understanding of assessment standards. This shared understanding then promotes consistency in grading by aligning assessors’ interpretations of criteria.


  • Facilitates discussions to establish a shared understanding of assessment standards.
  • Promotes consistency and enhances collaboration.


  • Time-consuming, with outcomes varying based on the effectiveness of discussions.

Sadler (1989) emphasizes the importance of calibration meetings in aligning assessors’ interpretations of assessment criteria, contributing to consistent grading.

Establishing Consistency in NQF-Aligned Assessments

In an institution following NQF guidelines, calibration meetings are conducted to align assessors’ understanding of assessment standards. This collaborative effort then ensures consistency and adherence to NQF criteria in the evaluation process.

7. Sampling and Benchmarking: Practical Assessment Insights


  • Practical for large-scale assessments.
  • Identifies trends and patterns through benchmarking against sample assessments.


  • Accuracy depends on the representativeness of the chosen sample.

In their work on large-scale assessment, Kane (2006) highlights the importance of careful sampling for moderation purposes, ensuring a representative subset for accurate insights.

8. Digital Moderation Methods and Tools: Streamlining Collaboration

Digital moderation tools offer efficient, centralized platforms for assessors to collaborate, share materials, and provide feedback. But while they streamline the moderation process, they require technological infrastructure and user familiarity.


  • Efficient, centralized platforms for collaboration.
  • Streamlines the moderation process.


  • Requires technological infrastructure and user learning curve.

Educause Review (2019) emphasizes the transformative role of digital moderation tools in streamlining collaboration among assessors and enhancing the efficiency of the moderation process.

9. Expert Moderation Panels: Industry Insight

Expert moderation involves industry specialists providing specialized feedback. This then ensures that assessments align with industry standards. Despite its resource-intensive nature, expert moderation is crucial for maintaining the quality and relevance of assessments.


  • Involves experts providing specialized feedback.
  • Ensures assessments align with industry standards.


  • Resource-intensive and challenging to assemble a panel.

The International Journal of Training and Development (2006) underscores the significance of expert moderation panels in aligning assessments with industry standards, acknowledging the resource challenges associated with this method.

10. Student Involvement in Moderation: Encouraging Engagement

Student involvement encourages engagement and a deeper understanding of assessment criteria. Careful structuring, including clear guidelines and oversight, is essential to ensure objectivity and address potential biases.


  • Encourages student engagement and agency.
  • Provides a deeper understanding of assessment criteria.


  • Requires careful structuring for objectivity.
  • May not fully address all moderation needs.

In their exploration of student involvement in assessment, Boud and Lawson (2000) emphasize the benefits of enhancing student understanding and engagement, while acknowledging the need for careful structuring to maintain objectivity.

It’s a Wrap on Moderation Methods

Choosing the right moderation method is like selecting the perfect tool for a masterpiece. It must align with the specific context, scale, and goals of the assessment process. As a result, combining moderation methods or tailoring them to the situation can enhance the quality and reliability of assessment outcomes. Thus ensuring a symphony of educational excellence!

Reference List

  1. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). “Assessment and Classroom Learning.” Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7-74.
  2. Hargreaves, A. (1994). “Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers’ Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age.” Teachers College Press.
  3. Harlen, W., & Deakin Crick, R. (2002). “A Systematic Review of the Impact of Summative Assessment and Tests on Students’ Motivation for Learning.” Research Papers in Education, 17(1), 27-49.
  4. The Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management (1999). “The Use of Blind Marking in the Assessment of Students.” Volume 21, Issue 2.
  5. Sadler, D. R. (1989). “Formative Assessment and the Design of Instructional Systems.” Instructional Science, 18(2), 119-144.
  6. Guskey, T. R. (2003). “What Makes Professional Development Effective?” Phi Delta Kappan, 84(10), 748-750.
  7. Kane, M. (2006). “Validation.” Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 25(2), 31-36.
  8. Educause Review (2019). “How Digital Tools and Platforms Are Changing the Game in Higher Ed.” Retrieved from
  9. The International Journal of Training and Development (2006). “Using Expert Panels to Set Standards: An Overview of Their Roles and Procedures.” Volume 10, Issue 1.
  10. Boud, D., & Lawson, R. (2000). “The Challenge of Change in Higher Education: A Contextual Study of Assessment.” Australian Government Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

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