By Kasey Powers and Anna Schwartz
A throwback to the classic back to school essay - What I did this summer. This summer we had the opportunity to take part in the AP Psychology Grading as AP Readers. This was a week spent grading the more than 280K AP Psychology Exams taken by high school students across the country. It was like going to camp for adults and one of the best professional development experiences I have ever been a part of.
I’ll stop here for a moment to let you wrap your head around the fact that I just said spending 56 hours grading exams was like going to camp. And fun!
It was a week spent in a new city with a few hundred like-minded colleagues who teach advanced placement psychology in high schools and introduction to psychology and colleges. I met people and made new friends. Each day at 5pm it was pencils down and the evening was ours. No work (at least from this job) to follow back to the hotel.
This is not to say it isn’t hard work. Each morning at 8am you are in your seat ready to read. But it’s an assigned seat and your table is like your cabin - the people you get to know best. And you are assigned to read only one question the whole week, your question is your camp, with the rival camp on the other question in the next room. But at lunch we all come together. This was still not about the work.
The work. Reading AP Exams has made me a better teacher (I hope, what I learned will be implemented in just a few days). Reading exams, specifically the same exam question several hundred times, and scoring these questions with a well made rubric, you see many examples of student writing ranging from very good to very very bad. There is much to be learned from student writing. Here are a few things I learned reading exams:
“Good” or “bad” writing is not necessarily correlated with comprehension and grasp of the psychological concept. There were some paragraphs that flowed so nicely and were easy to read. However, when looking for specific points, it turns out that the student said nothing of substance, most often in the form of circular definitions. There were some pieces of writing that were almost painful to read with poorly constructed sentences, but when looking carefully at the substance of the writing, the student did know the concepts. Writing is an equally important but separate skill.