Why should I do this? 

Breaking infrequent, high-stakes assignments or exams into smaller, more frequent, and lower stakes assignments or quizzes has several advantages. First, the combination of practice and feedback is one of the central drivers of student learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Additionally, for practice and feedback to be most effective, students need opportunities for frequent practice and timely feedback on that practice (Ambrose et al., 2010), a structure mirrored more closely in shorter, more frequent quizzes/assignments than in a few high-stakes exams. Furthermore, this structure not only supports student learning, but it also decreases the temptation for students to cheat. Research suggests that students are more likely to cheat when the stakes for failure are high, as they are with infrequent, high-point exams (Sheard, Markham, & Dick, 2003) 

How can I do this?

  • Use frequent, low-stakes quizzes instead of infrequent, high-stakes exams.  
  • Break large assignments into parts that students submit and receive feedback on across the semester. This is especially effective if students have an opportunity to receive feedback on and then revise and resubmit their work. Developing a rubric and providing opportunities for peer feedback can reduce the amount of time you as the instructor need to spend grading. 
  • Even if you choose to use high-stakes exams, consider giving group exams. This structure can decrease the incentive for students to cheat by lowering the stakes, and research also suggests that having students answer a question independently first and then discussing the problem with peers increases student comprehension (Smith et al., 2009). One way to implement this is to give students an exam that they complete individually and turn in to be graded. Immediately following the individual exam, put students in small groups and have them take the exam again, but this time they discuss the answers in their group and turn it in for a group score. Both quizzes are graded and if the group score is higher, the two grades are averaged. The group score can’t hurt someone if they have a higher individual score. 


  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons. 
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research77, 81–112. 
  • Sheard, J., Markham, S., & Dick, M. (2003). Investigating differences in cheating behaviours of IT undergraduate and graduate students: The maturity and motivation factors. Higher Education Research & Development, 22(1), 91–108. 
  • Smith, M. K., Wood, W. B., Adams, W. K., Wieman, C., Knight, J. K., Guild, N., & Su, T. T. (2009). Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science323(5910), 122–124.