Ideas for Low Stakes, High Engagement Assignments — Alyce Brady

For several years I’ve been interested in shifting my grading practices to focus more on learning than on the kind of content knowledge that frequently rewards prior knowledge and privilege. The move to CR/NC grading in Spring 2020 gave me an opportunity to experiment with this further.  The key concern that I and many other K colleagues had, though, was whether a CR/NC grading system would lead to less motivation and less engagement among students.

My experience this spring convinced me that lower stakes grading does not have to lead to lower levels of student engagement.  In fact, two experiments were so successful that my CS colleagues and I plan to continue these approaches across many of our classes, whether remote or in-person, and whether CR/NC or letter-graded.

The first 6 minute video talks about turning rubrics that awarded points for required criteria into ones that awarded checkmarks, dramatically reducing the number of points per assignment. This approach is essentially a very mild form of gamification. (It is also somewhat similar to specifications grading.)

Low Stakes, High Engagement:  Part 1 – Many checkmarks, few points (Mild gamification)

The second, 6 minute video discusses a move to replace traditional homework assignments with structured reflection assignments.  My original motivation was to reduce grading time, since the class was significantly over-enrolled.  I feared that some content learning would be lost, but found that the weekly writings encouraged students to develop and articulate greater depth and integration than the older homework assignments.

Low Stakes, High Engagement:  Part 2 – Structured reflection instead of traditional homework assignments

This video is posted at Stream. Click here to learn more about Stream.

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