Learning Can Be Fun! Creating Low-Stakes Assignments

Assignments can be used to inspire curiosity, help students build community with each other, and provide tools to think critically beyond the classroom. They don’t need to be obligatory benchmarks; in fact, assignments can even be fun!

In this workshop, we understand “fun” as a form of joy, mobilization, and engagement in the learning process, even when it is challenging or laborious. The pressure of heavily-weighted assignments–such as final papers or in-class exams–can be frustrating, cause insecurity or anxiety, and actually work against the learning process. We propose fun assignments as process-oriented, experiential, and encouraging students to explore difficult questions.

We invite you to explore how fun can alleviate student anxieties and encourage independent thinking, while helping instructors effectively direct their energy toward student engagement. This workshop will look at examples of low-stakes assignments, and help participants adapt and incorporate them into their classrooms, regardless of course level and subject area.

This workshop took place online in Fall 2022. Workshop and materials were developed by TLC Fellows, Ana Badue, Kristi Riley, and Molly Bauer.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains workshop agenda, slides, and sample assignments.

Materials Folder: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZUbFGZ9HjcOL78c-iHfSrZWd3Dc5t-0w

FUN Agenda

4:30-4:40 | Welcome

  • Intros: Name, Pronouns, Discipline, Courses Taught/Teaching
  • Introducing where we are in exploring pedagogy of fun

4:40 – 4:50 | Responses on fun

Free write on a Padlet page, responding to the three following questions:

  • What was an assignment that you remember having fun doing? What made this assignment fun?
  • Have you ever created a fun assignment for one of the courses you teach?
  • Do you have reservations about incorporating fun into your assignments?

4:50 – 5:00 | Why fun?

Definition of fun

  • Fun as generative of movement through joy
  • What does it mean to foster movement? Experiment with objects

5:00 – 5:15 | Why are we focusing on Assignments

What do we want assignments to do?

  • Why do we give them to students?
  • What do we want assignments to achieve?

Low-stakes assignments

  • Defining low-stakes assignments
    • How are they different from other assignments?
    • How can low-stakes assignments develop higher-order thinking skills?

Grading low-stakes assignments

  • Experiential learning over evaluation


  • Working towards learning objectives
  • Sequencing assignments
  • Benefits of scaffolding

Low-stakes Fun

  • Why are low-stakes assignments a good space for fun?
  • Making assignments fun and multimodal teaching
    • How do low-stakes assignments allow for students to explore creativity/cement learning/expand their ideas?

5:15 – 5:35 | Sample assignments/modeling practices (Small Groups)

  • Sample assignments 
  • Read through sample assignments in small groups and then summarize key elements for the workshop
  • What worked and what didn’t? What areas could be improved/modified?
  • Do you think you could adapt this to your classroom?

5:35 – 5:50 | Goals for a fun assignment (Full group)

  • How can participants use low-stakes assignments in their courses?
    • Open discussions about assignments
      • Writing and research skills
      • Subject-matter knowledge
      • Creativity
      • Get comfortable exploring the unknown
    • How would you tie these goals to your pedagogy of fun?

5:55 – 6:00 | Q&A and Next Steps (All)

  • What did you find helpful, engaging, or fun about the workshop?
  • What additional information would you find helpful as you adapt and create your own fun low-stakes assignments?
  • Would you have preferred this workshop to be in person?
  • Is there anything else you want to share?