National Moderator's Reports

February 2020

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The following report gives feedback to assist assessors with general issues and trends that have been identified during external moderation of the internal Physics 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 judgement for Excellence, it needs to be ensured that all indicators of the Excellence criteria in the standard have been fully addressed. These are outlined 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.

Where students are guided in how to provide suitable evidence, good strategies have included:

In the context of demonstrating understanding of the application of physics/context: Where learners clearly understood the progression of evidence required, typically effective evidence was seen. The steps usually consisted of

  • identifying the key Physics behind the issue (Achieved)
  • explaining how or why the Physics relates to the issue (Merit)
  • and then linking the issue and Physics ideas together to provide a coherent picture of the issue which was then used to recommend some sort of action (Excellence).

This understanding also applies in the context of using Physics knowledge to develop an informed response to a socio-scientific issue.  The steps typically consisted of

  • describing the key Physics ideas relating to the socio-scientific issue (Achieved)
  •  explaining how or why the key Physics ideas relate to the socio-scientific issue (Merit)
  • and linking the issue and Physics ideas together which was then used to recommend some sort of action (Excellence).

For practical investigations at Level 3: Again, understanding of the progression of evidence is key to learner success.  This is based on the completion of an in-depth practical investigation (Merit) and a discussion of an issue critical to the practical investigation. For Excellence, explanation of why an issue affects the investigation and how the issue affected the measured variable or gradient used in the comparison with the physics theory is required.

Collecting evidence

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Opportunities that allow students to collect evidence through different modes such as blogs, video clips, etc are encouraged. It allows student agency in how best to demonstrate what they know. 

It has been helpful that many Physics teachers have provided commentary for the inclusion of evidence based on alternative evidence, observation and verbal questioning, which is not necessarily clear from the student evidence itself.

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 necessarily an indicator of quality, this also helps to reduce workload pressures.

Guidance in how to achieve concise presentation of assessed materials tends to lift the quality of learner responses. It is appropriate for teachers to give guidelines to students as to the volume of evidence required.

Successful learner evidence seen in Physics moderation suggests it is highly likely that a guideline of 500 - 2000 words for their responses to Achievement Standards 90936, 91169, 91522 and 91527 should provide students with sufficient opportunity to demonstrate the skills needed for Excellence.

In 2019, it has been noted during moderation that the quantity of evidence submitted has been reduced at Levels 2 and 3. Good examples of this include:

  • In demonstrating understanding of the application of Physics to rollercoasters: instead of a student explaining fully how a rollercoaster works, responses are focussed on the physical forces and energy changes involved in achieving the sensation of weightlessness.
  • In developing an informed response to a socio-scientific to the issue of nuclear power: instead of learners explaining the environmental benefits of alternative energies, their response has been focussed on the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear physics in terms of the context.
  • For standards involving practical physical investigations, student responses at the Excellence level have focussed on discussions limited to two or three key ideas, reducing the amount of required evidence, and thereby workload, for students.

In terms of student wellbeing in general, 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.

Issues regarding contexts such as potentially inappropriate material are not evident in Physics 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

A well-received Physics Face-to-Face Speaker workshop, requested by Auckland Physics teachers, was held at Western Springs College in April this year, 2019.


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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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