Key Benefits of Low-Stakes Writing
The focus of low-stakes writing is not purely on writing—but on learning. In low-stakes writing, students are not graded on the quality of their writing, but instead on the validity and substance of their responses to open-ended questions. It's a tool for helping students think through a problem while developing a unique voice and open-mindedness towards learning.
There are many benefits to low-stakes writing for teachers and students.
Improves Performance in Multiple Subject Areas
Low-stakes writing is flexible. While we often think of writing as a language arts or English exercise, the concept can be applied in any subject area (yes, even math). Since the goal of LSW isn’t creating grammatically correct content, the strategy can be used to improve a variety of academic skills. In history, LSW can encourage students to analyze significant events. In math, it can help students attach meaning to abstract concepts. In science, it can encourage students to hypothesize and evaluate.
Individualized Instruction & Assessment
Turning the focus of assessment from multiple-choice questions to an open-ended approach increases a teacher's capacity to identify where their students are struggling. Low-stakes writing provides a deeper insight into a student's thought process, rather than focusing solely on whether or not an answer is correct. It breaks down answers into smaller visible pieces; it’s like “showing your work” when solving a math or chemistry problem. In the same way, teachers can design low-stakes writing prompts that address class- or student-specific challenges.
Promotes Critical Thinking
Education is slowly but surely moving away from the standardized, rote response climate of yesteryear. A large part of this shift involves putting learning back in the hands of students—empowering them to take ownership over how they process and come to understand complex concepts and information. Low-stakes writing embraces and requires critical thinking as a part of the learning process. With this approach, students aren’t simply locating answers in a textbook; they’re achieving the upper levels of learning taxonomy: analyzing, evaluating and creating.
...And Improves Writing
The primary goal of low-stakes writing is not to improve writing. It is, however, inevitable that students’ writing will improve as they invest a significant amount of time into the practice. Honing this skill is critical because despite a cultural shift towards technology and multimedia, the majority of communications begin with the written word. Encouraging students to write more often will prepare them for the academic rigors of college, and their careers.
WriteLab & Low-Stakes Writing
WriteLab embraces many of the principles of low-stakes writing. In addition to helping students improve grammar and syntax, the platform focuses on higher-order writing skills like word choice, emphasis, structure, and tone. Similar to low-stakes writing assessments, WriteLab offers suggestions rather than scores. The program gives students a way to evaluate the quality of their work before submitting it, supporting students in their writing practice by providing a safe space to refine their ideas and voice.
WriteLab is an online writing platform that offers immediate, actionable responses to students' prose as they draft, revise, and polish their writing.