Low-stakes Assignments – High Gains

Many people groan at the mention of Blogs. And honestly, I can understand why. It’s just one of many over-hyped (and at times poorly utilized) technology tools. Spinning up a blog for students to work within is a fairly simple task so it’s easy to assume that, as long as the prompts are carefully crafted, the addition of this technology will help lead students to your intended goals and outcomes.

In my observation, blogs are one of the most quickly abandoned technology tools. Inside Higher Ed featured a faculty this past Friday who describes how she went about re-tooling an unsuccessful low-stakes assignment in an introductory English comp course. And yes, she used a blog!

If you once had high hopes for using a blog, which turned out to be a flop, take a look this article. We don’t always get it right on the first try. And that’s ok!

These failures taught me three important lessons about low-stakes writing. First, low stakes does not mean low effort. Students were not benefiting from this assignment, because they saw it as being of lesser importance than the formal essays. Logically, they invested their time and energy into what mattered to them: their final grade. If low-stakes writing is to succeed, then it needs to carry substantial weight in the course’s rubric. Second, and this is where digital tools come in, I needed to find a way for students to feel more comfortable with the medium of the low-stakes writing. Preferably, they should be able to write from a variety of platforms, easily personalizing their blog and adding non-text content. Finally, I needed to be much more explicit about the connection between low- and high-stakes writing, to be clear on its pedagogical importance.

Heather VanMouwerik
Lowering the Stakes With Online Writing: A Case Study
Grad Hacker, Inside Higher Ed
www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/lowering-stakes-online-writing-case-study

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