Designing effective assignments

Assignments are another way to assess what your students know and don’t know. Common assignment types include:

  • Essays are used to assess student comprehension over specific content and the ability to explain the material in their own words.
  • Writing or research papers focus on student comprehension, ability to understand material, but depending upon the purpose of the paper, can also measure student’s innovation or evaluation abilities.
  • Oral presentations are used as a method to assess oral presentational skills, understanding of the content, and ability to organize and structure material.
  • Projects are an exceptional method to assess student’s creation or innovation abilities. For example, a student has to understand the material, apply their understanding to another context, and construct a project based upon this comprehension.
  • Case studies are used to apply class content to a specific individual, usually themselves.
  • Labs are an ideal method to apply abstract ideas or theories to concrete experiences.
  • Group assignments are able to assess interpersonal, communication, and collaborative skills of students. For collaboration, a student must be able to synthesize the material from group members and help create a group solution or product.  

Well-designed assignments contain clear, concise instructions that include explanations of the

  • connection to the targeted learning outcomes
  • necessary background information
  • description of the tasks/products students will complete
  • requirements
  • resources to use
  • criteria for grading

During assignments:

  1. Prepare your students
  2. Provide examples of success
  3. Monitor student progress

Providing examples of excellent final products is often the best way to show students your expectations. You can use examples of previous students' work (first remove their names and ID numbers), or examples created by instructors if necessary.