Creating an effective writing assignment involves more than setting a word count and picking a due date. Assignments that are clearly stated and relevant to the course curriculum enhance student learning and bolster the writing process. Below are a few guidelines to help develop effective writing assignments.
Make assignment expectations clear and explicit.
- Write out the assignment (with title), keeping it to one page whenever possible. See "Assignment Form" for one format and to use as a worksheet.
- Suggest possible topics, allowing students some options, and state as questions when possible.
- State the purpose as an authentic objective, such as "to explain" or "to describe."
- Indicate an audience (real or hypothetical) beyond the teacher.
- Recommend a process by breaking down the assignment into a series of tasks--being sure to include informal writing-to-learn activities.
- Include format particulars such as length, headings, font, and due dates.
- Provide evaluation criteria and indicate their weighting.
Situate the assignment into the course curriculum.
- Sequence assignments so they connect with course activities.
- Devote some class time for raising questions about the assignment.
- Allow ample time for writing process and provide due dates for each task.
- Present strategies for prewriting, revising, and editing and provide opportunities to practice them.
- Display writing samples from previous quarters as models, including both successful and less than successful examples.
- Provide opportunities for writers to get feedback while they are still working on the writing--from peers and from the instructor.
- Get feedback from students and use it to revise the assignment for the future.