Assignments are tasks that require student engagement and a final tangible product. They are one of the most common ways to assess student learning. The type and number of assignments you will design depends on your course learning objectives and teaching goals.
Types of assignments
There are various types of assignments that are used to achieve different purposes:
- Essays are generally 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 mostly 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 generally 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 member and help create a group solution or product.
Suggested uses of assignments:
- Demonstration or development of higher level thinking skills (Bloom).
- Demonstration or development of writing skills
- Demonstration or development of oral presentations skills
- Observation or training of collaborative and interpersonal skills
Strengths of assignments:
- Easier and less time-consuming to construct than exams
- Promotes higher level thinking (application/synthesis/evaluation)
- Allows for a variety of student learning styles
- Transfer and generalization more likely than for exams
Limitations of assignments:
- Often requires additional resources (e.g., library or lab facilities)
- May use class time (e.g., group projects, presentations)
- More time-consuming to grade than exams
- May be less effective for introductory level content
Knowledge about developing course learning objectives and constructing the various types of assignments is required. You should also understand how to use and interpret scoring rubrics and have a system for managing student products.
Plan your assignment
STEP 1. Understand the learning context
Consider the subject area, course content, class resources, and how the instructional setting and larger educational context impacts the learning course. Make sure to take into account the characteristics of the students such as demographics, skill level, and expectations of the course.
STEP 2. Identify needs and develop course learning objectives
Course learning objectives, shaped by what is most essential for students to know, your needs, and any instructional priorities, specify what you want students to learn from the course. For example, "The students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of “Erikson’s Psychological Stages of Development by naming the eight stages in order and describing the psychological crises at each stage.” [more]
STEP 3. Determine the purpose of the assignment
Use the course learning
objectives to guide the content and purpose of assignments. Specify the purpose
of the assignment, and how you will measure success.
STEP 4. Determine how you will use the results
How the results will be applied are the underlying goals of your assignments. Consider whether you intend to use results for a formative assessment or summative assessment. Also, consider how much assignment scores will count toward the course grades.
STEP 5. Plan the assignment
Identify course goals and learning objectives
Individual assignments should be linked to course goals and specific learning objectives. The type of assignment you give should be based on what you intend students to learn. [more]
Determine the assignment format
After determining they type of assignment(s) you want students to complete, develop the specific details related to its content, requirements, and format. Provide students with as much detail about these issues as possible at the time you make the assignment. Be sure to include a final due date and, for more involved assignments like projects and research papers, due dates for drafts or other important assignment milestones.
Develop a rubric to evaluate the assignment
You should develop clear guidelines for evaluating assignments and provide them to students when you first explain the assignment. [more]
Davis, B. G. 1993. Tools for Teaching. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.
McKeachie, W. J. & Svinicki, M. 2006. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers.College teaching series, 12 th ed. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.
Walvooord, B. E. & Anderson, V. J. 1998. Effective Grading: A tool for learning and assessment. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA