High-stakes writing—final projects, term papers—can be a stress-inducing endeavor for students. They will likely have preconceived notions about what constitutes “good writing,” and they may have received some less-than-generous feedback on their writing from their pre-college teachers. These are all reasons that you should approach high-stakes writing intentionally and with clearly thought-out learning objectives, methods of assessment, and instructions for students.
When most or all of your course is taught online and students have less face-to-face time with you and their classmates, their connections to others may suffer. In an online writing environment, students may be too overwhelmed or disconnected to reach out to you. We want to offer here a few principles for developing and assigning high-stakes writing online that can relieve some of your students’ concerns, which will make both their and your life easier.
The transition to online instruction means that adapting writing assignments into multimodal projects has never been more timely. By multimodal, we refer to writing that exists outside of the traditional writing-on-paper format—formats like audio, video, and other digital means. Multimodal projects center accessibility and inclusivity by expanding the possible options that students have to complete assignments in a satisfactory manner.
For example, you might ask students to adapt their research reports into virtual presentations with Kaltura and a narrated PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation. Or you might have them turn their research papers into a This American Life-styled story that compellingly delivers their information using storytelling and audio transitions. Consider the value, too, in joining traditional writing with images or video, and how the use of multiple mediums can improve students’ meaning-making capacities.
Professor Stephen Young
International Studies 402
The World Bank Letter
The World Bank is a very important institution when it comes to measuring and addressing poverty around the globe. Every year the Bank updates its estimates of how many people live below its poverty thresholds of $2 and $1.25 a day. Yet, many scholars have argued that this measure reflects a rather arbitrary conceptualization of poverty. You are going to write a 1200 word [3-4 double-spaced pages] letter to the President and Governors of the World Bank in which you address some of the shortcomings of their poverty measures and advocate for a different approach. What that alternative looks like is up to you but be sure to justify your decision.
Students (i) learn how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different ways of conceptualizing and measuring poverty and (ii) improve their ability to communicate ideas in a clear, concise fashion.
Here are examples of effective high-stakes writing assignments from UW–Madison faculty: