Low Stakes Assessment

“In virtually all areas of learning, you build better mastery when you use testing as a tool.” Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning.

The purpose of low stakes assessments is to build student confidence as they bid to secure blocks of non-negotiable knowledge. The types of assessments should be wide-ranging and implemented in a safe, secure and calm environment where students do not worry about making mistakes or getting the answer wrong.

Frequent low stakes assessments have many benefits:

  1. It identifies gaps in knowledge: it can show students what they know (what they are able to unlock from memory) and what they don’t so this can guide and prioritise their future studies.
  2. It causes students to learn more from the next learning episode. Once students restudy material, they initially got wrong, they are more likely to learn the correct information and be able to transport it to their long-term memory.
  3. It produces better organisation of knowledge. Low stakes assessment can help students to connect and structure knowledge, making links and identifying patterns when they have to unlock information. 
  4. Frequent low stakes assessments encourage students to study as it acts as a motivational strategy for learners. Students will know that an unlocking activity will be taking place and they can plan for it. This will encourage students to develop and take ownership and responsibility for their learning.
  5. Testing improves metacognition monitoring. There is no false sense of confidence with testing (known as the illusion of knowledge), as the results are very clear and explicit.
  6. It provides immediate feedback to teachers and students. It can support and inform teachers in regard to what students know, understand and can recall.

Types of low stakes assessments:

Every lesson at Hurworth begins with an Unlock task which is an excellent opportunity to test students’ prior learning. Types of low stakes unlock tasks include:

  • Retrieval strategies such as: knowledge drop, revision clock, challenge grid, dual coding quizzes.
  • Quick quiz – answers in books, spelling/vocabulary tests

During lessons, there are also several opportunities for low stakes assessments including:

  • Hinge questions from the teacher to ensure students are secure enough to move on
  • Thumbs up or down
  • Opinion lines
  • Directed teacher questioning to ensure understanding from all students

At the end of every lesson, lock tasks are used to ensure students are given the opportunity to lock in their new key knowledge. Types of low stakes lock tasks include:

  • Quick quiz
  • Multiple choice quiz E.g. Kahoot
  • Thinking and Linking Grids
  • Knowledge snapshots

Please note all of these low stakes assessment strategies are adaptable and can be used successfully at any point in a lesson as a way of checking for gaps in a student’s knowledge.

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