PAIRIN PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT & THE TEN PRINCIPLES

By Dr. Tara Laughlin; Director of Curriculum & Training, PAIRIN

This is Part 3 in our three-part blog series illustrating PAIRIN’s alignment with the Ten Principles for Building a High-Quality System of Assessments. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here!

As recent signatories of the Ten Principles for Building a High-Quality System of Assessments, we are examining our suite of 54 social and emotional (SEL) skill performance assessments through the lens of the best practices offered in the Ten Principles publication.

Performance assessments are authentic tasks requiring learners to demonstrate their understanding in some way. Instructors provide learners with feedback on their progress and coach them toward greater success. PAIRIN Performance Assessments are structured around open-ended tasks requiring students to demonstrate their social and emotional skills. As they complete these tasks, instructors observe, using the corresponding PAIRIN rubrics to identify each learner’s proficiency level and provide targeted feedback.

Principle 01 is PAIRIN’s bread and butter! PAIRIN Performance Assessments focus explicitly on the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed for success in college, career and life, outside of the traditional academic domain.

In addition, we offer training for educators on how to weave assessment of their core academic content into SEL performance assessments so that one task can assess both the academic content and the skills at the same time.


PAIRIN Performance Assessments are flexible and can be used in any of the three capacities identified in Principle 02.

  • Assessment FOR learning:
    • PAIRIN Performance Assessments can be deployed at any time throughout the teaching and learning process to provide a snapshot of student understanding and skill.  
    • Instructors can then use this snapshot to modify instruction moving forward.   
    • Because performance assessments are task-based and require application in a novel context, there is no limit to the number of tasks students can complete over the course of learning, so long as each task is high-quality and focused explicitly on the same skill(s).  
  • Assessment AS learning:
    • Because PAIRIN Performance Assessments require learners to perform, they naturally provide learners a window into their own learning.  
    • Completing a performance assessment is a great way for students to see where their skills are lacking by noting: Which portions of the task are easy? Which are challenging? This is a great way for students to metacognitively identify their strengths and areas for growth.
  • Assessment OF learning:  
    • PAIRIN Performance Assessments can also be used as summative assessments after all learning has taken place.  

Performance assessments are open-ended by nature, and PAIRIN Performance Assessments frequently offer learners a choice in how to construct their response (i.e. orally, in writing, through various media). The tasks are also broad enough for learners to apply them to their own various life contexts, thus making the assessments more developmentally and culturally appropriate.  

In addition, because PAIRIN Performance Assessments are intended for use in the classroom, instructors are able to provide all necessary accommodations (i.e. extended time; oral instructions) just as they normally would.  

Instructors are also trained in how to make accommodations and modifications to the assessments as needed (i.e. incorporating more structure; simplifying language). These practices make PAIRIN Performance Assessments accessible to many more learners.  

Clients using PAIRIN Performance Assessments are provided with in-depth training on how to design, implement and score performance assessments. This includes discussion of:

  • The nature of performance assessment
  • The rationale for using performance assessment
  • Design techniques
  • Implementation recommendations
  • Effective scoring practices, including inter-rater reliability

PAIRIN Performance Assessments are intended to be curriculum-embedded, meaning they should be used as assessment FOR and OF learning, as noted in Principle 02. This also implies tight alignment with what is taught in the classroom.  

When the PAIRIN Performance Assessments are paired with our rubrics, curriculum, and in-depth instructor training, all of which target identical learning objectives, this alignment is guaranteed.

Each PAIRIN Performance Assessment comes with a four-point rubric, identifying what proficiency looks like. Because performance assessments can be implemented at any point throughout the teaching and learning process, so long as they are all scored on a common rubric, these data (and the work samples that accompany them) can be used to show evidence of skill growth over time.

Principle 07 requires gathering input about a system of assessments as a whole. Because PAIRIN’s assessments are just one piece of this larger puzzle, none of our assessments can accomplish this on their own. However, we do remain responsive to feedback and are committed to helping refine our place in this rich tapestry of assessments. We also seek opportunities to actively collaborate in discussions and projects that seek to improve the system, such as that of the Ten Principles.

In contrast to Principle 07, which focused on the improvement of the system as a whole, Principle 08 encourages the improvement of individual assessments within that system. In this regard, we at PAIRIN routinely collect feedback from our clients to improve our offerings, refining them over time.  

When designing the performance assessments, we at PAIRIN took the following steps to increase their reliability and validity:

  • Aligned each assessment with its associated skill rubric, identifying specific ‘look-fors’ at each proficiency level
  • Aligned indicators in each rubric with specific, research-based behaviors associated with the skill being assessed
  • Structured performance assessments to elicit the behaviors identified on rubrics (if learners are capable)
  • Trained instructors on effective inter-rater reliability process to ensure scores across instructors are consistent 

In addition, our performance assessments are also aligned with The PAIRIN Survey, a scientifically validated psychometric assessment. All learners taking the performance assessments also take the survey for the purpose of providing criterion-related validity. This survey can be used as an external instrument, collecting pre- and post- measures to compare to performance assessment data.

PAIRIN Performance Assessments are conducted within the walls of individual classrooms, and data are gathered by individual instructors. Therefore, it is up to the individual instructors to make wise decisions regarding the dissemination of this data.

Reflecting on PAIRIN’s two forms of SEL assessment, The PAIRIN Survey and PAIRIN Performance Assessments, through the lens of the best practices outlined in the Ten Principles publication, has provided us with some new perspective.

First, we are proud of the many natural points of alignment we discovered, which offered further confirmation that our assessments and related training are of high quality. Second, we now have a clearer picture of how our assessments must fit into the larger system of assessments used by any organization we work with. This knowledge will allow us to offer more structured guidance and support in helping our clients situate us in that bigger picture. Finally, the Ten Principles provide us with clear, practical guidelines around which to focus any future assessment efforts.  

We encourage those of you reading this to reflect alongside us. How does the work you do align with these Ten Principles? How might the Principles inform decisions you make in the future?

Interested in why PAIRIN became a signatory of the Ten Principles? Part 1 of this blog series can answer that question for you.  Curious how The PAIRIN Survey aligns with the Ten Principles? Check out Part 2 of this blog series. For more information on this initiative, contact info@pairin.com.