Low-stakes assessments – Gary Baker, Modern Languages

I have never been a fan of high-stakes assessment – students cramming a huge amount of work in a short amount of time for a test or project to satisfy a grade requirement. I found that prolonged, meaningful engagement with multiple low-stakes opportunities produces better and longer lasting results.

This notion is even more critical as we look into the fall. We know there are many pressing concerns already weighing on students’ minds which can affect their cognitive capacity to take on large, detailed oriented projects in a short amount of time. Moreover, how do we ensure academic integrity during high-stakes on-line tests, for example? I have opted to provide my students with multiple (daily) activities that keep them meaningfully engaged with the material but will not ruin their grade if they miss something due to an emergency or other pressing concern. Some of these may be formative assessments – watch this short video, then test your language comprehension with these three questions. Students answer questions through our learning management system and get immediate feedback. Other assignments may be graded such as a short quiz on a limited amount of material, a 200-word writing prompt, or short applications of material learned (in my case German grammar and vocabulary). 

For longer projects, like a semester paper, I provide many scaffolded opportunities. If a student completes the various segments of the paper— includes a thesis statement with opening thoughts, discussion of pertinent secondary lit, own interpretation of text or film—and dutifully does the revisions, then what is left in finals week is a very manageable: putting together of the final draft and writing a conclusion. 

Gary Baker
German/Modern Languages/Modern Languages/Global Commerce