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How Are Moderations Conducted at K-12 Levels?

Please Note: The Center for Language in Learning has closed, and thus no longer administers large-scale moderation assessments. This is a direct result of the unfortunate demand for K-12 learning assessment via standardized testing. This page describes the moderation process as it has been developed, researched, and successfully used in K-12 schools and districts. (See also the current moderation instructions) >>

The purpose of moderation readings is to provide for both in-class and large-scale (beyond classroom level) assessment of learning environments, programs, and teaching, based on classroom evidence from actual teaching and learning activities. Participants are usually teachers, although parents, students, administrators, and others who are interested are welcome as observers. The first round of moderation readings is held at the school site, with others at the same school who have also been keeping Learning Records. The last names of the students and the teacher's placement of the student on the developmental scales are masked. Several validated Learning Record exemplars with their scale placements unmasked are reviewed and discussed, so that participants can familiarize themselves with the process.

Participants then read, in pairs, the completed records and the student work, and attempt to determine from the evidence where they would place the student. They mark their responses on a short form which is sealed and attached to the Record. There is also a space on the form for providing feedback about the record for the classroom teacher. This process is repeated at regional readings.

There are, then, three evaluations of student progress: the original evaluation by the teacher, the evaluation by a pair of readers at the school site, and the evaluation by a pair of readers at the regional moderations. At the regional level, the school site placement and regional placement are compared. If there is a difference among placements, all placements are masked and a pair of readers experienced in using the Learning Record reviews the evidence in the record and makes a final determination.

In any event, since the classroom teachers will, for the most part, be present at the moderation readings, there is an opportunity for discussing special circumstances that may not be apparent to readers, and for teachers to learn directly some ways to improve their observations and interpretations, or to ask questions about a difficult or problematic record.

In college-level courses taught by M. A. Syverson where the Learning Record model has been used, students participate in the moderation process as readers, working in pairs to readand evaluate the records of other students.

The moderation process is a revolutionary approach to assessment, both in terms of the direct involvement of teachers closest to the learning situation, and also in the concept of returning to those teachers something of value: an opportunity to deepen their understanding of their work as teachers. The same opportunity extends to students when they become part of the moderation process.

Further, this approach strips the mask from the "impartial," "distanced," and "objective" judgment of student (and teacher) performance claimed for standardized testing and situates assessment in a productive conversation among students, parents, and teachers about how to directly improve instruction and student achievement.

This moderation process reduces the increasingly baroque apparatus of writing assessment to the minimum intrusion on learning situations, yet manages to provide much richer answers to the real questions at the heart of assessment: What are students learning? What are they able to do? Are we providing opportunities for learning equitably? It also provides some answers to a question that conventional assessments canêt hope to address: What kinds of environments support student development as readers and writers?

This assessment model has proven to be robust, authentic, reliable, and valid under close scrutiny from California State Department of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and UC Berkeley Education School. (See Hallam, P.J. (2000). Reliability and validity of teacher-based reading assessment: Application of “Quality Assurance for Teacher-based Assessment” (QATA) to California Learning Record moderations. Doctoral dissertation. Berkeley, CA: UC Berkeley.)

The Learning Record | © 1995-2006 M. A. Syverson

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