National Moderator's Reports

February 2020

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Download PDF: Geography National Moderator's Report (PDF, 128KB)

The following report gives feedback to assist assessors with general issues and trends that have been identified during external moderation of the internal Geography standards in 2019.

It does not clarify specific standards but provides further insights from moderation material viewed throughout the year.


Awarding Excellence

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When making a judgement for Excellence, the criteria of the standard need to be fully addressed. Guidance of specific requirements are given in the Explanatory notes. The quality of evidence provided should also reflect the curriculum level. If the evidence demonstrates that the Excellence criteria have been only partially met, then the grade awarded cannot be Excellence. This is critical in distinguishing between high Merit and Excellence.

Consideration also needs to be given to the overall submission, such as succinctness and clarity.

Responses at Excellence in Geography are typically planned, concise, and well-constructed, showing effective integration of case study, visual and statistical evidence.

Responses confirmed at Excellence showed insight, complex geographic understanding and critical thinking, for the level of the curriculum relating to the standard. The skills needed to ‘fully explain’ and ‘critically analyse’ had clearly been taught, and the students exhibited the depth of geographical knowledge required. Students demonstrated judicious selection of evidence which enabled them to provide succinct responses, show clarity of thought and insight. For further discussion of Excellence at Level 3, refer to the 2019 National Moderators Report.

Collecting evidence

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Opportunities are encouraged that allow students to collect evidence through different modes, such as blogs, video clips, etc. Such opportunities allow students to have agency on how best to demonstrate what they know.

This reflects an increasingly wide range of skills and knowledge being developed as well as student agency in learning contexts.

The Conditions of Assessment for Geography state, at all levels, that students should be encouraged to provide additional resource material. The greater the variety of material students access, the better their opportunity to develop a comprehensive response, including different perspectives and more detailed supporting evidence.

Instructions relating to what evidence teachers will collect from students should encourage them to go beyond the traditional written responses. Students should have opportunities to use an approach that enables them to express their understanding most effectively. Examples of ‘Approaches to Assessment’ are also provided in the Conditions of Assessment.

Student wellbeing

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Where students are guided in how to present their evidence succinctly, the quality of their responses improves. When students are aware of the concept that quantity is not an indicator of quality, this also helps to reduce workload pressures.

Well-being of students in their learning and assessment should be a significant consideration in programmes. Clearer guidelines need to be provided for students regarding the quality and volume of evidence required. Where the planning of answers is promoted, this enables students to manage their workload and volume of evidence by helping them write more concise cohesive responses.

In Geography, some contexts used are too broad, and often one aspect of a topic would demonstrate the necessary understandings. For example, where students have focused on a local geographic issue, rather than at a national or global scale, the volume of evidence is reduced while quality is improved.

Using a local context approach provides students with the opportunity to use prior knowledge or fieldwork evidence, resulting in more detailed responses with targeted and viable recommendations. Selected contexts are further discussed in the section ‘Global Geographic topics’.

In terms of student wellbeing, it is also timely to consider the importance of positive contexts and guidance regarding potentially ‘dark themes’ or inappropriate material. While the need for self-expression and realism is not disputed, the mental and physical wellbeing of students in their learning and assessment should be a significant consideration in programmes.

Dark themes are not an issue in Geography moderation.

Assessor Support

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The Best Practice Workshops (online and face-to-face) offered by the Assessment and Moderation Team continue to be viewed by the sector as significantly contributing to improved assessor practice:

"The workshop helped to review my own knowledge, and great to share ideas."

"It was great having time to challenge my thinking in assessment."

Based on the success of the ‘on request’ model and the ability to have targeted support, the Assessment and Moderation Team will continue delivering this support model in 2020. Workshops or presentation slots can be requested to provide targeted support to regional or national audiences.

Additionally, we will continue to run the generic Transforming Assessment Praxis Programme, an online programme which helps assessors learn about re-contextualising assessment resources and collecting evidence in different ways to better meet the needs of their learners.

More detailed information, including how to request or register for a workshop, can be found on our Best Practice Workshop pages or by emailing

E-Learning modules are being developed for selected Geography standards. Currently a module is available for 91014.

Geographic topics at a global scale

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There is some inconsistency in the evidence provided for the global study topics at levels 1, 2 and 3. Several common issues influencing achievement of these standards are:

  • the evidence lacks the global spatial dimension
  • the selected context is too broad
  • the evidence showing conceptual understanding needs further development
  • students need greater depth of understanding of the related geography.

When students use maps clearly showing the global spatial dimension of the topic, the evidence tends to remain focused on the pattern at this wider scale, rather than emphasising individual countries or regions, i.e. locations. Selected case study evidence needs to show the global scale, and in the stronger scripts it is effectively integrated into the response, illustrating or further developing ideas. Approaches that focus on case studies tend to lose the global perspective which is the intent of the standard.

For the larger topics, students who are encouraged to select one part of the topic manage to address the required aspects and concepts in more depth without excessive volumes of topic evidence. For example, focusing on the spatial patterns of either the source or the destination areas with migration topics, and just one aspect of broad topics like climate change, rather than the whole topic.

At all levels there are 3 aspects required. These relate to the pattern, causes for the pattern and the significance of the topic. Understanding of the geography of the topic and the environments included in the spatial pattern are critical to developing the description, explanation or analysis of these aspects. While most students focus on a spatial pattern and use appropriate terminology, the description of the pattern needs to show progression in accuracy and complexity from Achieved to Excellence. For 91432 (3.7), the description of the pattern should reflect Level 8 of the national curriculum. It is a natural response to combine evidence for the aspects of pattern and the contributing factors and/or processes. 

Too frequently students identify why the pattern occurs, but develop the evidence for causes contributing to the topic rather than continue to focus on the pattern. When the factors and/or processes and pattern are explicitly linked the student demonstrates their understanding of the causal relationship.


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Outcome statements in external moderation reports

In 2017, moderation report outcome statements changed from ‘Confidence’ statements to ‘Consistency’ statements, as explained in an NZQA Circular at the time.

The previous FOUR ‘Confidence’ statements were changed to THREE Consistency statements. This reduction in the number of categories of statement has, in some cases, resulted in moderation report outcomes previously noted as ‘Confident’ now being noted as ‘Not Yet Consistent’.

It is important to recognise that ‘Not Yet Consistent’ does not imply major issues on the part of the assessor, but that the aspects highlighted can be easily addressed through the advice given in the report.

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