Designing Effective Writing Assignments
What is the purpose of the assignment? How will it be used?
Is the assignment written in-class or out-of-class?
- In-class writing requires a more tightly focused writing prompt.
- Out-of-class writing can demand more preparation and revision by students.
- Less grading time is required for in-class writing
What kind of writing will students do?
- Personal/expressive writing lets students discover their opinions without the risk
of failing to produce a formal, structured, "correct product. Its audience can be
oneself, peers and/or the teacher.
- Academic writing/writing from sources teaches students to make and support claims
using the conventions of writing in higher education. Its audience is usually the
- Workplace writing like proposals, reports and abstracts teaches students the writing
of their professions. Its audience may vary.
What level are the students?
- Lover-division students are less committed to college and to a career choice and typically
- Upper-division students are more committed and knowledgeable about both college and
Will the students write alone or in groups?
- Collaborative writing is the pattern in the American workplace, but collaborative
assignments require structure to avoid problems of "pooled ignorance," uneven levels
of commitment by students, and immaturity.
Who will evaluate the writing, and when?
- Out-of-class writing permits individual paper conferences and peer editing in addition
to instructor evaluation.
Is revision of the assignment permitted?
- Allowing revision can make more work for the instructor, but it can improve student
learning. Discourage revision that is mere exercise of the fingers.
- Specify your criteria for evaluation as part of the assignment.
- Check sheets can be useful for clarifying an assignment. So can trying to write the
assignment yourself, if you have time.
- Consider building up to complex assignments and goals through simpler ones. For example,
have students rewrite an assignment that simply reports observations into one that
generalizes from them.
- Try to provide a specific audience for the writing.
- Try to make every assignment count. That doesn't necessarily mean all must be graded
or collected, but using them in some way can help students see the worth of the assignments.
- Any assignment help writing ability if students write in complete sentences, using
their own words.
- Not all assignments need to be long, major papers. In fact, shorter assignments serve
some purposes better.
- Most importantly, shape the assignment to fit your purpose. Before making an assignment, know what content and skills you want your students
to practice or demonstrate by writing. Also know what tasks the students must perform
to achieve your specific goals.