In our professional lives all of us engage in a variety of writing tasks, each with its own purpose, intended audience, and associated conventions, and increasingly instructors are attempting to create a similar variety of writing tasks in their classrooms.
Besides providing students with a variety of writing tasks, instructors also hope to encourage more writing by students without increasing the already heavy "paper-load" instructors face, especially in lower division classes. Everybody agrees that students should do more writing, that more writing will lead to better writing, and that writing is essential to learning.
But how do already overburdened instructors balance the legitimate pedagogic need for more writing by students with the equally legitimate claim of too much student work and not enough time to grade it?
High-stakes writing assignments are stressful for students and involve considerable work for the instructor.
Low-stakes writing falls under the general category of "writing to learn" pedagogy. Low-stakes writing is often used to assess quickly how well students understand course material. The writing is usually
While the instructor might read low-stakes writing, the instructor should not comment, correct, or grade it. Instead of a grade, most instructors use a simple acceptable or not-acceptable system (i.e. credit or no credit, check or minus) or simply "handed-in" or "not handed-in."
Listed below are some examples of low-stakes writing assignments:
Low-stakes writing can also serve as pre-writing for high-stakes writing assignments. In-class brainstorming activities might lead to brief paper proposals which might lead to a formal paper. In short, low-stakes writing is not a substitute for high-stakes writing, but research seems to indicate that it improves student performance on high-stakes writing assignments.
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Last Update: 04/29/2009