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Social moderation and calibration versus codification: a way forward for academic standards in higher education?

O'Donovan, B, Sadler, I and Reimann, N (2024) Social moderation and calibration versus codification: a way forward for academic standards in higher education? Studies in Higher Education. ISSN 0307-5079

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A key responsibility of higher education providers is the accurate certification of the knowledge and skills attained by their students. However, despite an intense focus on developing relevant quality assurance regulations, academic standards in higher education have remained resistant to explication and consistent application. In this paper, we initially deconstruct and evaluate academic standards and dominant practitioner perspectives on their nature and use, including techno-rational, sociocultural and sociomaterial approaches. The limited prior research on the effectiveness of calibration and social moderation processes is reviewed, highlighting the significant challenges in sharing tacitly held understandings of assessment criteria (attributes of quality) and standards (levels of achievement). Further complications are considered that arise from the varying expertise and power relationships of assessors and the complexities inherent in the development and use of codified artefacts for capturing and sharing standards. We opine that because of the difficulties in clearly representing and agreeing standards, it is unsurprising that there is little evidence of marking consistency to be found in the literature even in contexts where carefully crafted artefacts, such as rubrics, are in use. We conclude that effectiveness would be enhanced through sharing understandings more widely and refocusing the use of assessment codifications towards how they may catalyse effective social moderation and calibration dialogues. Dialogues that foreground individuals’ positions of consensus and dissensus at significant points of interpretation in the assessment process are identified within the paper.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1301 Education Systems; 1303 Specialist Studies in Education; Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Group
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2024 12:00
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2024 12:00
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/03075079.2024.2321504
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22701
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