Everything in remote moderation

22nd March 2013 at 00:00
Being miles away from other teachers does not mean you cannot share good practice and offer support, as Jackie Cosh discovers

Five subjects, six local authorities and hundreds of miles between the schools - the logistics of working together could be a nightmare. But for teachers in the Northern Assessment Forum, recent joint work into "remote moderation" has proved a success, with staff in remote schools - particularly single-teacher departments - benefiting from mutual support and feedback.

The local authorities - Highland, Shetland, Perth and Kinross, Moray, Orkney and the Western Isles - have been working together for the past five years, meeting regularly to compare notes, share practice and help to build on good work.

When Education Scotland offered the opportunity to bid for an inter-authority working fund to support moderation projects, the group thought about what would benefit all the children and strengthen links between them.

Alison Drever, quality improvement officer for Perth and Kinross, coordinated the project, liaising with the different authorities.

"Moderation is that whole process of how we establish what our shared standards and expectations are," she says. "That's a much easier thing to do face-to-face than remotely, so we wanted to explore different possibilities, and different methods of remote moderation."

Focusing on secondary schools, teachers from music, geography, PE, history and CDT all got involved. Face-to-face meetings were arranged occasionally, but most communication was via wikis and Glow.

Elaine Geddes, music teacher at Kirkwall Grammar in Orkney, worked with Pamela Main, her counterpart at Aith Junior High in Shetland, each producing a piece of music and performing live to the other via video link.

"Pamela assessed my class and I assessed hers, but also the children assessed each other," Ms Geddes says. "They got to watch each other and see how they were all getting on.

"We used Glow and did a Glow Meet, where they shared ideas about what they thought you needed to be a successful ensemble. Then they shared that with each other and watched each other's video.

"Then they completed a questionnaire set by the other class, to see if they had managed to reach all these different things."

Pupils were very motivated, giving each other advice in a positive manner. The process also encouraged them to think about their own playing.

"Normally you set them a task and you suggest things, but having other children make suggestions really made them think," Ms Geddes recalls. "Beforehand they were thinking, 'How could we make ourselves better? Someone is watching us, not just the teacher - what could we do to improve our own performance?' The whole class was really very motivated."

Ewan McLeman, a geography teacher at Sandwick Junior High in Shetland, worked with teachers in Orkney and the Western Isles. They shared resources via Glow, creating an online workspace where they could comment on each other's learning and teaching practice.

"That was the first phase of the moderation and then it was about moderating pupils' work to see what sort of level they were working at in relation to the working outcomes," he says. "We asked ourselves questions about whether it met certain standards; the learning and teaching approaches; and could we demonstrate that the pupil had met these learning intentions?

"What was useful was the sharing of resources and people taking a piece of work that somebody had done (teachers) and then changing it and uploading it again. Developing it a bit further."

Mr McLeman adds: "In terms of pupil work there were comments saying, 'Well, sometimes I agree they have met these criteria. They have shown that they have met this particular standard, met that learning outcome. Or it may well be that it's difficult to say with the evidence that you have uploaded that that pupil has met the success criteria'."

In the Western Isles, technical problems slowed things down, caused in part by the Nicolson Institute's move to a new school. "We tried to do a couple of Glow Meets," says PE teacher Darren Beattie, "and due to circumstances of us moving to a new school we found it difficult. We didn't have web cams at the time and I think later our webcam did not work and it was kind of an IT and technical problem.

"Sometimes I would put material up or the other teacher would put material up on to the wiki pages and for whatever reason, maybe our software was not up to date, we were not always able to access and upload it. So there were problems, but we were able to overcome them and with that we were able to make it a success."

Stephen Robertson, CDT teacher at Auchterarder Community School, says that the project has changed how he views moderation: "I think moderation was one of these things everyone used to associate with the SQA.

"The SQA would appear in your letterbox and say, 'Right, I want all your stuff to be moderated' and then you would send it away, and it was something that was done to you. But now I think, because Curriculum for Excellence is the way it is, we can't not moderate."

LACK OF CONFIDENCE CITED

The Assessment at Transition Report 2012, conducted by the University of Glasgow's school of education, found that many teachers lacked confidence in evaluation of students' work under Curriculum for Excellence (TESS, 14 September). It found that teachers were more than happy to work with colleagues, looking at students' work and discussing and coming to agreements on the level of achievement demonstrated.

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