Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Low Stakes vs. High Stakes

I really enjoyed Elbow's ideas of identifying low and high stake types of assessments. We are constantly assessing our students but they don't always need to know the end result of that assessment. I like that low stakes assessment allows students more freedom in their writing. As Elbow explains, "We should honor nonverbal knowing, inviting students to use low stakes writing to fumble and fish for words for what they sense and intuit but cannot yet clearly say. And if we assign lots of low stakes writing, students are much less liable to be held back by fear or inability to put what they know on paper when they come to high stakes writing." That's the just of it, isn't it? We want students to feel more freedom to explore their voice. In my classroom, by making writing an ongoing process rather than an end result, I see students who are excited to write, who are creative and pushing limits and having fun, and who are trying to find that voice and write it down instead of how to "please the teacher,"or "get the grade." The multi-genre writing project we have been working on this year is an example of this. Students have not yet been assessed. They will have an assessment at the end of the year when they choose three of their multi-genre writing pieces, reflect on them and post them on their blog. So the low stakes has been more like no stakes other than using the the time to move through the writing process and getting it done. The high stakes will be choosing the three pieces and then writing about them; why they chose them, what they think of them, what they learned from doing them, how they would assess them, etc. It has freed me up to spend more individual time with students conferencing, helping them with the technology, brainstorming, supporting and just making connections. Isn't that what we want to be able to do all the time with students? And it's a lot easier to do it when your not worried about assessing the students or they're not worried about being assessed.

1 comment:

  1. So what did you use for all of the writing grades 1st semester? Did you put NA for each category?

    This sounds like a great idea. I'm just wondering how this looks on the report card, which is so important to our population of families.