Classroom Strategies | Teacher Moderation
Consider this scenario: Your school has several classes of the same grade. As the principal, you begin to notice that the marks in Mrs. Smith’s class are consistently higher than that of Mrs. Jones’ class.This is puzzling because you distinctly remember balancing the two classes in terms of the student make-up – capable / needing assistance / highly capable. What’s happening in Mrs. Smith’s class that is not happening in Mrs. Jones’ class? Both teachers have begun to use high yield strategies. Both have access to the same materials. Both are well trained for their positions. You cannot explain it and the parents are beginning to notice too.
This issue may not be teaching strategy or material or student capability. It may simply be that these two fine teachers do not grade materials in the same way. Each teacher is certainly allowed to assign and mark work as he/she sees fit. But in a situation such as described here, it is in the best interests of the students for the teachers to develop some level of consistency. But how to do it?
A plan of teacher moderation would work well in this given situation:
In the initial meeting, teachers of a specific grade must decide upon a short writing assignment for their classes – a descriptive paragraph, a short narrative, written directions to a place everyone knows – anything that takes a bit more assessment than right / wrong. They must also decide on the grading criteria. They can develop a detailed rubric or just determine the important points of their marking scheme. But all must agree to use the criteria on each piece of writing. the criteria should be recorded in some type of chart for reference at the next meeting.
At the next gathering, teachers brings one piece chosen from among the work students have written. It is not to have been previously graded and the student’s name must not appear on the paper. Copies should be made of all the papers, so that each teacher has a copy of each piece from each classroom. The papers are distributed among the grade teachers, so that each is reading and grading papers from all the classes. The assessments can be done at this meeting or taken away and brought back to the third meeting.
The third meeting begins with the teachers sharing the grades each assigned to the written papers. Each must explain why the mark was given. How did the paper meet or not meet the criteria set? Record the grades on a chart. Continue this process until all papers have been discussed. At this point, teachers will begin to see where and how they agree and perhaps, disagree, on the assessments. The points of agreement and the discrepancies need to be discussed in detail. This should be at this meeting.
Having seen where the gaps in consistency lie, teachers should be prepared to repeat the process with more examples from this initial assignment or design an other assignment and assessment criteria. The procedure is followed a second time. Each time the process is followed teachers will become more in sync with the assessment criteria and each other in the grading of these types of assignments.
The gatherings for this process should be reasonably close together to be most effective, perhaps two weeks apart. This allows teachers time to think about the assessments done and to be aware of how the written piece did or did not meet the designed criteria. The time gap also encourages discussion among teachers between formal meetings.
If this process is followed with teachers of like grades three over an entire year, using different types of assignment each time, principals will begin to see less discrepancy among student grades. Teachers will hopefully see a value in working together and sharing best practices – as well as becoming more consistent with one another in their assessments of student work. A change welcome by all.