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Writing Assignments in Writing Enhanced Courses

Generally, the kinds of writing assigned in a writing enhanced course run the range between simple/easy and complex/challenging. For the sake of simplicity, we break the kinds of assignments into three kinds:

  1. Low-stakes
  2. Medium-stakes
  3. High-stakes

Faculty build up to high-stakes assignments by assigning plenty of low- and medium-stakes writing. In general, a writing-to-learn curriculum relies more on the low- to medium-stakes assignments than on the high-stakes. The process is comparable to quizzes and exams: students use the quizzes to strengthen themselves for higher-stakes examinations, and students will not master the materials all at once. By emphasizing low- and medium-stakes writing, and a variety of grade weights and revision opportunities, faculty help students get control of the content before putting them on the spot with higher-stakes assignments.

Some examples of the kinds of writing that faculty could assign:

Informal, Low-Stakes Assignments

These assignments tend to be ongoing through the semester, are generally unrevised and are often not graded:

  • Journal entries, logs or "idea" notebooks
  • In-class writing exercises, free writes or "one minute" essays
  • Blackboard "Discussion Board" posts

Shorter, Medium-Stakes Assignments

These are typically shortish assignments, generally include some revision and are usually graded:

  • Correspondence (reflections emailed to you; reading responses emailed to the group)
  • Short reports
  • Abstracts of readings
  • Micro-themes (short essays)
  • Proposals
  • Critical analyses of readings or disciplinary conventions

Extended, High-Stakes Assignments

These assignments are typically longer projects, go through one or more revisions, and are graded:

  • Long paper or report
  • Technical writing assignment
  • Extended proposal, including research projects
  • Case studies