This ‘how-to’ guide provides faculty with a walk through of assignment creation from conception to execution. It also provides a model prompt that applies the best practices described in the guide.
1.Recognize your purpose.
If you are asking students to complete an assignment, what you are really asking them to do is to demonstrate their learning. Think about whether you want them to demonstrate learning as part of a formative or summative assessment:
Formative assessment: low-stakes assignment aimed at measuring an individual student’s engagement with a specific skill or idea and are used to provide feedback to the professor regarding student learning
Summative assessment: high-stakes assignment aimed at measuring a student’s engagement with a variety of skills or ideas from across multiple units of the course and used to measure and benchmark student learning
2. Connect work with objectives.
Once you know whether you want students to engage in formative or summative assessment, you will then consider how this assignment will help the students meet the objectives of the course:
3. Determine the level of the students.
The various course levels correspond to the skill and knowledge basis you can and should expect from your students. Some action verbs you might incorporate in your assignment for each level would be:
100-Level: identify, define, describe, explain, restate, demonstrate, practice
200-Level: apply, interpret, calculate, compare/contrast, criticize, question
300-Level: evaluate, editorialize, differentiate, distinguish, formulate, measure
400-Level: assess, create, design, invent, justify, propose
4. Articulate the purpose.
Now that you have created a foundation for assessment, you will then want to communicate that to the students. An effective assignment prompt will explain the purpose for the assignment, the goals you want the student to achieve, and of course, how you want them to do so.
When writing the assignment, be transparent:
type of assignment: low-stakes/informal or high-stakes/formal assignments
objectives or goals: these can be a bulleted list or a narrative description
skills: list or describe the specific skills you want them to apply
audience: if it is a writing assignment, you can identify who is being addressed.
5. Summarize the assignment.
The summary of the assignment is where you will prompt the student’s thinking about their approach. You should provide clear descriptions of:
Genre: what type of assignment should a student prepare
Components: what area(s) would you like them to cover
6. Be specific with execution requirements.
Execution requirements cover some of the logistical concerns you will want to set:
Length: word count, page count, source usage
Formatting: text, font size, spacing, margins
Citation: style and parts (header, heading, cover letter, abstract, references)
Due date / procedure: date of submission and method
7. Include your evaluation criteria.
You should be able to easily articulate your assessment strategy to students so that they can understand and meet your expectations.
Formative assessment: bulleted list of questions/criteria; description of ‘completeness’
Summative assessment: formal rubric with breakdowns of categories and weights
No matter the assessment strategy, you will want to use precise language. For instance, instead of saying a ‘strong thesis statement,’ you may want to use the characteristics of ‘strong’: clear, specific, original, argumentative.
Some additional support for students may include:
To get you started, you can use the following model prompt from one of our writing courses: