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Low-Stakes Assessments Early and Often

Low-Stakes Assessments Early and Often


Challenging our own assumptions about our students can help us better meet them where they are and prevent frustration when our assumptions are unexpectedly proven incorrect. For this reason, it is important to give students low-stakes assessments early and often, so neither you nor they are surprised and disappointed by a high-stakes midterm or late-in-the-term writing assignment.

The teaching tip

There are many kinds of low-stakes assessments that can keep providing feedback and 'closing the loop' between you and your students. Various informal writing activities or discussion papers are popular forms of low-stakes assessments, as are graded or ungraded quizzes. Some teachers use clickers for brief moments of feedback, or even something as simple as Think-pair-share.


A brief diagnostic activity during the first week of class (well before the drop date) can help both you and your students decide how best to proceed with the term. In a statistics class, this might involve a short quiz on the absolute fundamentals that your students must know to begin the class. In a writing class, it might involve a short paper they must write following a certain rubric. These activities can be evaluated but not "graded" in the sense of contributing to their final grade for the course.

When you return the evaluated materials at the next class session, you can include recommendations to each student based on how they did (e.g., "I recommend you visit the campus writing center early in the term to establish a connection with them so they can help you with the writing you'll be doing in the class this semester.")