Low-stakes activities for text analysis instruction in the undergraduate classroom

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Marcela Y. Isuster

    McGill University

Work text
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The introduction of digital text analysis tools and methodologies in (non-digital) humanities undergraduate courses has been sparsely documented in the literature. Furthermore, most of the times we encounter it, it is done in the context of semester-long or mid-term projects (Boyle and Hall 2016; Ficke 2014), where the stakes for the students are very high. Other times, they include a session on text analysis but no practical application of the tools and methodologies discussed in the course, other than a follow along demonstration.
This short paper introduces a middle point between these two extremes through the introduction of low stakes activities and assignments to help student discover and use digital text analysis tools and methodologies.
Besides giving students the opportunity to interact with the material in a safe and relaxed manner, low stakes activities help with student retention, confidence, and relationship building (Hamilton 2020; Meer and Chapman 2014). Low stakes activities are also a useful tool to assess comprehension and instruction when the person delivering the lesson is not the regular or official instructor in the course, such as the case of a librarian or a guest speaker. Furthermore, these types of activities are particularly useful for digital humanities instruction because they contribute to scaffolding, a method that has been identified as ideal in this type of instruction (Griffin and Taylor 2017; Isuster 2020; Sample and Schrum 2013; Tracy and Hoiem, 2018).
In the context of a Hispanic Studies course, a librarian offered a workshop series on digital text analysis and the web-based reading and analysis environment Voyant Tools. Interspersed with instruction there were a series of low stakes assessments that helped students understand and apply the content of the workshops. Working with the class readings, the librarian created activities that did not rely on having a single answer but encouraged students to discuss and interrogate both the methods and the information used. For example, when preparing a text for text analysis, students debated how different research questions necessitate different text preparation. The activities were completed in groups and were not graded. Results were discussed within the class.
The short paper presentation will explore the process of creating and implementing low stakes activities for digital text analysis and other digital humanities instruction. It will discuss the benefits of these types of activities as they pertain to digital humanities instruction and engagement and will share best practices and tips to help attendees create these kinds of activities in their own classrooms, including assignment design and sourcing materials.

Boyle, M. and Hall, C. (2016) ‘Teaching “Don Quixote” in the Digital Age: Page and Screen, Visual and Tactile’,
Hispania, 99(4), pp. 600–614.

Ficke, S.H. (2014) ‘From Text to Tags: The Digital Humanities in an Introductory Literature Course’,
CEA Critic, 76(2), pp. 200–210.

Griffin, M. and Taylor, T.I. (2017) ‘Shifting expectations: Revisiting core concepts of academic librarianship in undergraduate classes with a digital humanities focus’,
College & Undergraduate Libraries, 24(2–4), pp. 452–466.

Hamilton, M. (2020) ‘Implementation of a low-stakes daily assessment in a large introductory LAC course’,
Teaching and Assessment Symposium [Preprint]. Available at:

Isuster, M.Y. (2020) ‘From students to authors: Fostering student content creation with Scalar’,
College & Undergraduate Libraries, 27(2-4), pp. 133–148.

Meer, N.M. and Chapman, A. (2014) ‘Assessment for confidence: Exploring the impact that low-stakes assessment design has on student retention’,
The International Journal of Management Education, 12(2), pp. 186–192.

Sample, M. and Schrum, K. (2013) ‘What’s Wrong with Writing Essays: A Conversation’, in Cohen, D.J. and Scheinfedlt, J.T. (eds)
Hacking the academy : new approaches to scholarship and teaching from digital humanities. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, pp. 87–96.

Tracy, D.G. and Hoiem, E.M. (2018) ‘Scaffolding and Play Approaches to Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Assessment and Iteration in Topically-Driven Courses’,
Digital Humanities Quarterly, 11(4). Available at:

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2022
"Responding to Asian Diversity"

Tokyo, Japan

July 25, 2022 - July 29, 2022

361 works by 945 authors indexed

Held in Tokyo and remote (hybrid) on account of COVID-19

Conference website: https://dh2022.adho.org/

Contributors: Scott B. Weingart, James Cummings

Series: ADHO (16)

Organizers: ADHO