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CTE - Teaching Writing

This guide provides resources and best practices on teaching writing, creating writing prompts and rubrics, and providing feedback on student writing.


Writing gives students the opportunity to ‘show off’ what they learned through a medium that lends itself to self-expression, creativity, and adaptation.  A clear, detailed, and thoughtful writing assignment will push students to engage critically and creatively with the course material in a way that is not possible in other methods of assessment.


Theorizing Writing

Before you create a writing assignment, you will need to determine if it is the most appropriate metric for the situation.  Ask yourself:

  • What course objectives am I looking to assess?  How do they connect?
  • Are there better ways to assess these objectives?  Tests?  Presentations?  Surveys?
  • What should the students explore or learn from this assignment?  Skills?  Knowledge?  Both?
  • Is the prompt asking for an objective answer?  Is there a better method of assessment?
  • What do I want the end product to be? What model would I provide? Resources?


Connecting 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:

  • What weekly or course-level objectives are you trying to measure?
  • What do want the students to demonstrate?
  • What is the outcome you want to achieve?
  • What would a response to this assignment look like?


Here’s a way to visualize this process: 



Once you have determined that a writing assignment is the best assessment for what you are trying to measure, then you will need to determine what type you will need to create.


Formative writing assignments focus on student learning. As such, they ask students to examine, discover, or reflect. These assignments are low-stakes and are usually graded by completion.

Some examples include:

  • One-minute paper
  • “Muddiest” moment
  • Process reflection
  • Summary
  • Journals
  • Targeted free-writing

Formative assignments can be used as knowledge check-ins, pre-writing activities, and reflections. While a specific prompt can sometimes be helpful, highly developed prompts and rubrics are not necessary.


Summative writing assignments focus on communicating knowledge. As such, they ask students to analyze, argue, inform, or persuade. These assignments are high-stakes and are usually graded by an objective-completion standards.

Some examples include:

  • Informative summary
  • Précis
  • Literature review
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Proposal Argument
  • Analytical Argument
  • Essay exams

If using a summative assessment, you will want to craft a prompt and rubric that explain to students how to meet your expectations.