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Paired Assessment - What do you think?

DoingOurBestDoingOurBest 45 replies5 threads Junior Member
edited January 14 in Parents Forum
So, my son is in a high school AP class that directly aligns with the major he'd like to pursue one day (engineering). He had a big assessment in this class last week. A few days before the test, the teacher announced it would be a "paired assessment"...each kid would take the assessment with a randomly selected student.

My son was paired with a student who is far less proficient in the material. This student was slower to understand the concepts and the assessment period consisted of my son negotiating with his partner over the correct answers. Needless to say, it didn't go well and their grade was reflective of that.

My son did talk to his teacher afterwards and his teacher explained that he is part of a pilot program authorized by the assistant superintendent. Apparently, six teachers will be trying out these paired assessments this year. So, my son and his peers are the guinea pigs.

It really got me thinking about how these assessments align with college admissions. Assessments, in my view, should be used to determine what a student knows and where they stand. Paired assessments seem to defeat that purpose. There were very weak students who ended up with very high grades because they got lucky and pulled a strong partner. These kids sat back and let the stronger student to the work. Many other pairs (like my son's) had to deal with conflicting opinions and "whose answer are we going to write down?"

So, what do you think? Am I not seeing some obvious benefit on these types of assessments? I'm trying to decide if I should be the squeaky wheel and talk to my son's teacher and express my concerns about the testing format.

edited January 14
52 replies
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Replies to: Paired Assessment - What do you think?

  • OhiBroOhiBro 464 replies6 threads Member
    This seems very odd. The actual AP exam is ultimately given to students as individuals, right?

    Is this analogous to having students take a practice SAT in random pairs?
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  • DoingOurBestDoingOurBest 45 replies5 threads Junior Member
    It does seem odd, doesn't it? The actual AP exam is definitely a solo affair. My guess is that this is the school trying to be "innovative".
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2964 replies49 threads Senior Member
    edited January 14
    I didn't know schools had such latitude in an AP course curriculum. Doesn't seem like an appropriate course for a pilot program. I would reach out to the asst. superintendent, first on a fact finding mission and go from there.
    edited January 14
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8291 replies70 threads Senior Member
    There have been plenty of times, including in college, where D has been paired with someone who doesn't pull their weight academically. IMO, there is an important learning opportunity to be able to be successful together and to help people find their strengths.




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  • DoingOurBestDoingOurBest 45 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @momofsenior1 I do agree that partner projects and labs are appropriate and academically meaningful. I've just never seen it in a timed assessment format. The term "assessment" doesn't even make sense when partners are involved IMO.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8291 replies70 threads Senior Member
    My D had timed partnered tests in HS, including in AP courses. I guess because we experienced it with D, the OP's post doesn't seem odd to me.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79717 replies712 threads Senior Member
    So, what do you think? Am I not seeing some obvious benefit on these types of assessments?

    The "benefit" is that the student gets to experience the inherent unfairness of being judged or graded as an individual in a task, project, or process that is affected by how well others do their parts of a group task, project, or process. Examples that one will see beyond high school:

    * Applying to college, getting recommendations from overworked teachers and counselors with little recommendation writing experience puts the student at a disadvantage compared to those at elite prep schools with dedicated college counselors and teachers well trained in recommendation writing.
    * In college, there may be group labs or projects.
    * At work, the success or failure of a group or the entire company can be very dependent on how well someone else does his/her job, regardless of how well you do your job. Such success or failure can result in bonuses or layoffs for you.
    * In sports, a star player surrounded by poor players may see few wins, and his/her individual performance may be affected.
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  • Data10Data10 3245 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited January 15
    The OP mentioned that his/her son was interested in engineering. If he does end up working in engineering, a large portion of his work is likely to involve group assignments, rather than working independently. He will likely work in groups and may be evaluated primarily based on the strength of the net result, rather than just his individual contribution. Convincing others of a particular project decision/direction may be very relevant to this evaluation.

    This is one of the reasons why engineering classes often have a lot of group projects. At the college I attended, students were usually encouraged to do engineering problem sets in groups, and most students did so. Labs were also almost always done in pairs/groups. Many classes (particularly outside of engineering) had group final projects that counted towards a large portion of grade, as well as group presentations or group papers. In any of the above group projects/assignments, it's quite common for some members of the group/team to be far more key contributors than others, as well as for different group members to have very different opinions about key project decisions.

    However, the OP mentioned "correct answers", so I'm thinking this is more of taking written exam in pairs. That sounds more unique and less directly connected to real world type group projects. Maybe they are modeling after the success of different types of school systems that have a greater degree of learning from peers, as is common in some Nordic countries.





    edited January 15
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6134 replies10 threads Senior Member
    In my DS first AP class, their first assessment was done in a group. Collectively they got an F. They wrote a wonderful answer but didn't answer the question asked. It didn't help his grade in the class but he got a 5 on the exam. That had been the teacher's point with the group paper - learn how to tie in everything that relates (and a group provided more fodder for that), nothing more, and answer the question!

    Almost all his IB chemistry lab assessments (including several for the IB grade) were paired. It was helpful for him because he was the weaker partner and learned a lot. I think their grades were fine. I would guess that the partner also solidified her knowledge by helping him.

    Given your concern, I might talk to the teacher to understand the goals of this type of assessment rather than to complain. You can express your concerns. It could be that the # of these assessments and their weighting is calibrated so that they cannot have too big an impact on a final grade but that they will still yield the desired outcome. Or it may have been badly thought through.

    Producing a work product with others is a learned skill and a very important one. Yet I understand how it can feel like there must be a better way. My kid's school had lots of collaborative work, even across disciplines, and they did learn how to do it.
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  • sciencenerdsciencenerd 1580 replies236 threads Senior Member
    Hmm I'm just wondering how this would affect this grade in the class.

    However, I could see the plus point being that the stronger student has to explain his/her answers to the weaker student and be able to convince/teach them of the correct answer.
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  • OhiBroOhiBro 464 replies6 threads Member
    edited January 15
    Yes, likely two separate motivations here:

    1) More knowledgeable students helping other students, which is good for the lower performing students and good for the school’s reputation (AP aggregate results).

    2) Teaching teamwork, which is virtually impossible for academia to do. At best, these exercises are unrealistic, bad simulations of teamwork in the working world. At worst, they harm the learning more than they help.

    I would guess the school’s actual motivation is more tied to #1, which is why I would just gather more information as some posters have suggested, rather than throwing a tantrum. Sounds like OP’s child will ultimately do well on the AP test, regardless.
    edited January 15
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3204 replies43 threads Senior Member
    They're definitely good life-learning experiences, but they're tough pills to swallow in the moment. My oldest had a group assessment experience in a microbiology class and was paired with, probably, two of the weakest students in the class (neither went on to finish the program). It was tough going when they argued for wrong answers and it was two against one. Only one test was given in this format. If more had been given, I'd assume partners would have changed.

    No, it doesn't seem odd to me. Schools (both hs and college) are under tremendous pressure to produce graduates who are career ready, and real teamwork is a career-readiness skill.
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2516 replies61 threads Senior Member
    In college, we had a team quiz (same team for the whole term) at the start of every class meeting. Most of the time, we reached consensus relatively easily - either everyone agreed, or everyone who had any idea what the right answer was agreed. Once, we were evenly split between two answers, with everyone adamant that their answer was definitely the right one. I finally said that I'd pay everyone in the group a dollar if we went with my answer and it was wrong. The people supporting my answer immediately agreed that they would also pay everyone a dollar if we were wrong. The rest of the group decided they were not so sure after all.

    Sometimes it helps to make disparities in certainty clear.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1619 replies25 threads Senior Member
    There have been plenty of times, including in college, where D has been paired with someone who doesn't pull their weight academically.

    My D has a shirt that says “If I die, I want my lab partners to be my pall bearers, so they can let me down one last time”. She doesn’t wear it much at school because it’s true.

    It does seem like an odd thing to have in high school, though my younger D has lab partners with which she needs to do Chem lab reports.
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  • happy1happy1 23225 replies2298 threads Senior Member
    edited January 15
    A few comments:

    -- It is unlikely that one test grade will change the course of a student's college acceptances.

    --It is fine that your S explained the situation to the teacher -- I expect the teacher already has a sense of who the stronger students in the class are already.

    -- My children had a number of group assessments in HS and college -- typically they were projects, labs, or papers rather than exams but the same problems were there. My kids always hated group projects/papers. but only one time did things get so out of hand that my D spoke to her professor about the problems with the group project.
    edited January 15
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  • FlaParentFlaParent 112 replies21 threads Junior Member
    I find this grading system to be 100% unacceptable. I would meet personally with the teacher first to confirm what is being presented. Assuming that your student has the fact correct, I would then meet with the principal. If (s)he, in fact signed onto this foolishness then I would meet with the superintendent and if needed, I would meet with the school board.

    Early on in the discussions, I would let it be known that if this is not changed back to individual grading, that you will contact the local newspaper along with the college board. as this is an AP course and I'd imagine that there are certain standards to which the school agrees.

    This happened to me in college during my statistics course and it chapped my behind from the word go. Our specifics was that you received a group grade 10 points higher than the lowest grade of the person in your group.

    This was in college and was many decades ago but I met with the Professor who initially did not back down. I then scheduled a meet with the Dean of the Business Department who initially did not believe what I was saying was true. Needless to say, it was changed retroactively to the beginning of the year.


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  • bluebayoubluebayou 27014 replies175 threads Senior Member
    edited January 15
    My S had group projects and group tests in AP Stats. As a strong math student, he absolutely hated having to 'bring some of the other kids along' while at the same time hurting his test scores. After sulking for most of the quarter, the other partners started to catch up, so they all did well.

    But more importantly, the class that he started out hating turned into his strongest college Rec. The teacher even took it upon himself to stop me after teacher-parent night and mention that he 'was really impressed with S's teamwork and would be happy to write a college rec for S and that it would receive his highest recommendation'. Until that time S never even thought asking that teacher, 'bcos he doesn't like me'. hahahahaha
    edited January 15
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6134 replies10 threads Senior Member
    It is interesting in this discussion that the grade seems to be so much more important than rather what might be learned by in this situation. I would guess that nobody in that group will forget what the right answer is for a long time.

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79717 replies712 threads Senior Member
    SJ2727 wrote: »
    When you work collaboratively with people in the real world, team performance is important but your own contribution is also properly assessed during performance appraisals. You don’t all get the “team grade”. (And if you do, to me that’s a sign to look for work elsewhere.)

    The success or failure of the project, division, or company is the "team grade". Regardless of how good your contribution was, the bonus or layoff that you get depends on the overall success or failure which is largely dependent on others' contributions.
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