National Moderator's Reports

February 2023

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Download PDF: Visual Arts National Moderator's Report 2023 (PDF, 169KB)

The following report gives feedback to assist assessors with general issues and trends that have been identified during external moderation of the internally assessed standards in 2022. It also provides further insights from moderation material viewed throughout the year and outlines the Assessor Support available for Visual Arts



The difference between subjects and themes in Developing Ideas standards

An important aspect of the 3.3 standards is the focus and scope of the personal investigation. The potential for students to extend and regenerate ideas is often determined by the depth and complexity of the identified thematic intention. Successful investigations are typically founded on a clearly defined and sustainable proposition.

In some cases, students produce work featuring a favourite subject such as horses, cars, or sports like soccer or basketball. Without a specific thematic purpose, these investigations can become generically illustrative and omit a specific conceptual focus and the critical properties of contemporary practice. 

Fruitful investigations typically incorporate a personal thematic intention in relation to the chosen subject. For example, an equine-based proposition can move beyond illustrations of horses to explore a narrative or conceptual approach such as movement, mythology, hunting, exploitation, or other man/animal relationships. This provides an opportunity to show the extension and regeneration of conceptual ideas needed for higher levels of achievement.

Submitting folio panels for 3.3 moderation

Showing depth of critical thinking is a key requirement for higher levels of achievement in the 3.3 standards. This is often demonstrated via supporting evidence such as research, annotations, false starts, risk taking, experiments, trials, planning, etc.

Folio panels are often an edited selection of final outcomes that omit the range and depth of thinking underpinning the artworks. For this reason, it is recommended that the supporting developmental work is included with submissions provided for external moderation.

The value of annotations in 3.3 submissions

Notes or annotations can provide insight into the intentions, decision making and critical thinking of an investigation. Benefits include enhancing opportunities for students to think more clearly about their work, and providing insight into the progression of ideas for assessment purposes.

Annotations can be brief and to the point. Short sentences that summarize conceptual or narrative objectives, or identifying strengths and weaknesses of outcomes, show evidence of the reflection and evaluation needed for higher levels of achievement. Annotations or critical thinking about art works may be in written or verbal modes. Lengthy evaluations at the end of the investigation are less useful if they do not inform subsequent work.

Appropriated manga and anime imagery in design standards (91445, 91450)

Achievement Standards 91445 ‘Use drawing to demonstrate understanding of conventions appropriate to design’ and 91450 ‘Systematically clarify ideas using drawing informed by established design practice’ involve the development of original solutions for design contexts or briefs. In the context of manga and anime approaches, a key expectation is the personal development of original characters, settings and storylines.

In some cases, the reliance on ‘how-to’ solutions, or characters that are highly derivative of existing solutions, has limited students’ opportunity to show the personal depth of understanding and critical thinking needed for higher levels of achievement. Useful strategies for starting the development of original characters can involve observational drawings of animals, or photoshoots of cosplay scenarios.

Online access and orientation issues with digital submissions

An increasing number of schools elected to make digital rather than physical submissions in 2022. The system is designed for teachers to upload samples directly into the external moderation application or to provide a link to web-hosted material.

When web-hosting sites such as Google Images or SharePoint are used, delays occur if security settings prevent moderators from accessing the materials. For hosting sites, access should be set to public, or a username and password should be provided.

Care should be taken to ensure that digital images are in chronological order and correctly oriented. Images that are sideways or upside down interfere with the fluent reading of the artwork.

A free online bite-sized module provides detailed guidance about preparing Visual Arts samples for external moderation (see below).

Assessor Support


NZQA’s learning management system (Pūtake) offers 150+ easy to access courses, materials and products. These are designed to support teachers as assessors to improve their assessment of NCEA standards.

Online, subject-specific, bite-sized learning modules and short courses are now available to complement the traditional face-to-face workshops that NZQA offers. These online courses can be accessed using your Education Sector Logon. Courses available for Visual Arts include:

  • Bite-sized module: Preparing Digital Submissions for Moderation
  • Short course: Developing ideas
  • Short course: Drawing Conventions
  • Short course: Research Standards, Level 3
  • Short course: Finished Work Standards
  • Short course: Assessing Integrated Evidence
  • Short course: Assessment Guidance – Group Work in the Arts 

Online Making Assessor Judgements workshops are also available throughout the year. These workshops are structured to guide teachers to improve their understanding of each grade level by examining several full samples of student work. The following standards are available for enrolment in 2023:

  • 91450 (3.3 Design)
  • 91451 (3.3 Painting)
  • 91452 (3.3 Photography)

Feedback from teachers for these workshops indicates that more than 90% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the content in the module was beneficial:

“This would be a really good department exercise to do in a meeting before marking the standard.”

“I found reading and analysing the extracts for evidence against level 8 in the curriculum very useful.”

In 2023, Visual Arts teacher-assessors will have the opportunity to participate in the Phase Two pilot for the Assessor Practice Tool, which enables assessors to practice making judgements on up to ten samples of student evidence per standard. Once assessors have assigned a grade, they will receive immediate feedback from a moderation panel on their judgement. NZQA are piloting the Assessor Practice Tool with the following standards for Visual Arts:

  • 91451 (3.3 Painting)
  • 91460 (3.5)

The Assessor Practice Tool will be used to provide assessors with support for the new NCEA standards from 2024 onwards. Schools will receive further information about Phase Two of the Assessor Practice Tool in early 2023.

NZQA will continue to offer several non-subject-specific modules and workshops, designed to improve general assessment practice. The following modules and workshops will be available in 2023:

  • Assessment Approaches, an online workshop exploring different methods of assessment
  • Culturally Responsive Assessment
  • Assessment Guidance – Reviewing Your Practice
  • Tāku reo, tāku mahi – My voice, my work, a guide to managing authenticity
  • Why Less is More, a guide to reducing volumes of student evidence.

We will also continue to run the Transforming Assessment Praxis programme, an online workshop relevant to all subjects which helps assessors learn about re-contextualising assessment resources and collecting evidence in different ways, in order to better meet the needs of students.

Check the NCEA subject pages on the NZQA website regularly, as more online modules, workshops and courses will be added throughout 2023.

Live and Face-to-face

The Best Practice Workshops (online and face-to-face) offered by Assessment and Moderation 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."

Workshops, webinars or presentation slots can be requested to provide targeted support to local, regional or national audiences. National Moderators are available to present at conferences, local or national hui or via live webinars. These services are available on request and subject to availability.

Contact NZQA

More detailed information, including how to request or register for a workshop or online course, can be found on our Assessor Support pages or by emailing

To give feedback on this report click on this link.

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