campus at night

Why Low-Stakes Writing?

Low-stakes writing involves frequent, informal writing prompts or assignments that invite students to reflect on their learning. Writing to Learn facilitates deeper learning, retention, and provides practice communicating in a specific field’s discourse (Parker & Goodkin, 1987).  

Example Assignments 

  • Reading journals that ask students to highlight key takeaways and apply them to various contexts 
  • Notecard activities that capture what students learned from the lecture and what they have questions on 
  • Case studies that ask students (together or individually) to apply a course topic to a real-world situation 
  • Discussion questions from a reading to guide classroom conversation 

Grading Low-Stakes Writing

For this kind of assignment, we want students to have space to reflect on their learning, draw connections between the topic and their lived experiences, and practice putting all of these thoughts into a cohesive response. Since the goal of the assignment depends on the content, course design, and individual students, consider some of these approaches as a starting point.  

  • Provide a brief written or verbal response. 
  • This might be a summary, a response question, or an affirmation that you come up with while reviewing the piece. 
  • Compile a summary of responses 
  • Recap with the class by summarizing all of the responses together. This might also involve a word cloud or other data visualization 
  • Pair and share 
  • Ask students to share parts of their writing with a peer. Then, have the pairs (or group) share key points from the conversation.  
  • Grade a percentage of the responses 
  • Assign regular writing prompts, such as a brief reading response or class exit ticket for each class period and only grade 5 of them.