Thursday, June 14, 2012

On my first time as an AP reader

The KC skyline
Last Friday afternoon the last of more than 200,000 AP psych exams were graded in Kansas City. I've taught AP Psych for ten years but this was the first time I had been invited to participate as a reader, and I can report that it was such a terrific experience that I would strongly encourage all eligible folks to apply to read. (From the College Board, here's how to become an AP Reader.)
400+ people gathered to get their marching orders on Day 1
First, participating is a serious commitment of nine days - two travel days, plus seven reading days. Each reading day is a real workday that begins at 8 and ends at 5. At our reading, the first half of the first day was spent learning the rubric on the question we were grading, but by the afternoon we were independently grading essays. It is obviously not comparable to more demanding forms of physical labor, but it does take a physical toll to sit in virtually the same position for hours, reading essays that ranged from the excellent to the execrable.

Second, being a reader allows you to understand the exam in a whole new way - and I say that as one who was fairly confident going in that I had prepared my students well in terms of the mechanics of the test. One thing I'll take away, for example, is an importance of communicating to the reader that you just finished taking an AP Psychology course and can "speak the language." I recall numerous examples where the student wrote about the concepts in the question, but in a way that they could have before they ever took the course. Some things to iterate and reiterate next year: use the terms you have learned, define terms (even if it doesn't say define, it can't hurt) and give specific examples to show that you know what you are talking about. Psych teacher Amy Ramponi called her method TAD: Term, Apply, Define.
The last day - after the tests have all been collected.
Third, being a reader is a great professional experience. The more than 400 readers are either high school AP Psych teachers or college professors who teach intro psych, and to get that many people in one area all talking about psychology is phenomenal. Whether it was discussing how to score a point with my partner (a college professor), listening to a great talk by a former APA president (the terrific Diane Halpern) or just chatting informally, it was so valuable to talk to people who, again, "speak the language" of AP Psychology. It was also refreshing to hear Chief Reader Ken Keith say that at the reading, there are no titles - everyone is to be addressed by their first names, and there were as many high school as college folk with leadership positions.

Fourth, I got to meet so many great people! There were those who I've communicated with for years via e-mail but never met in person (like Kent and Chuck), those I've met through the THSP blog (like Virginia), those I met previously at other workshops (like Jen and MikeR), people I've gotten to know through Twitter (like Maria, Bill, Michael and Catherine), people who I'd heard great things about but never met (like Laura) and people I met for the first time (like AmyR and Sarah). And it was especially nice to meet colleagues who said "Oh, I love your blog!"

There's a lot more, but I just wanted to give you a brief overview of what the reading was like from my perspective. For another take, check out Charlie Blair-Broeker's overview of the AP Psych reading from 1994.

Biggest disappointment? I didn't get a photo of THSP moderators Kent, Kristin, Chuck and Rob when we were all under the same roof at the same time! Oh well, there's always next year. (I hope!)

--posted by Steve
(acorn no more!)


Anonymous said...

Love the pictures, Steve! Thanks for giving this summary of the reading. I too find it to be so useful in terms of improving how I teach various concepts and how I teach the FRQ guidelines. -Maria

Rob McEntarffer said...

Great write up, Steve. I think you captured the combo well: WORK + COOL conversations with psych geeks=the AP reading. Glad you were there, sorry that we didn't get to chat more, and thanks for the post!