How to develop a high stakes writing assignment:

  • Make sure your high-stakes formal written assignment(s) is aligned with your course goals.
  • Consider exactly what you want students to get out of this high-stakes assignment and how you want the final, revised draft to appear.  Then, formulate your assignment in stages that will help students move towards that final goal.  It helps to consider the ‘building blocks’ of an assignment, beginning with lowest-order tasks (like summarizing sources) and building up to highest-order tasks (like formulating a thesis).
  • Provide a written explanation of the assignment that includes: the topic or question; the due date and penalty for lateness; the required length; the documentation style; and formatting requirements.
  • Use low-stakes exercises to build student competency towards the expectations of the formal assignment.
  • If possible, show students examples of successful and unsuccessful papers from a prior semester.
  • Integrate opportunities for revision into the assignment design (i.e., peer review or annotated bibliographies for a small percentage of the final grade).

Examples of high-stakes assignments provided by former faculty participants: