Last Published 9/14/23
Studies have shown that balancing the use of low stakes and high stakes assignments and assessments in determining a course grade tends to improve the performance of all students while also specifically promoting the success of historically under-represented/under-served students in such a way as to reduce course-level equity gaps. The particular positive impact on these student populations may be based on reductions to Stereotype Threat.
Determining what qualifies as a low stakes assessment or assignment is usually straightforward. Quizzes, weekly homework assignments, one-page reflection papers, credit based on measures of student engagement, and other formative assignments would typically be considered low-stakes. Midterm exams, final exams, and major end-of-semester papers or projects and other summative assignments.
Aiming for a 50/50 split between low stakes and high stakes assessments is a good starting point, although the structure of a particular class or department-wide course standardization may need to be considered. Nevertheless any effort to increase the number of low-stakes assignments relative high-stakes ones may be beneficial.
Ertmer, P.A. and Newby, T.J. (2013), Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective. Perf. Improvement Qrtly, 26: 43-71.