Writing Assignment Guidelines

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Writing Assignment Guidelines

Carmen Werder

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.

Design:
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.
Process:
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.