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.

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.

Consultation Times

Julie Dugger, WIS Director, is available for individual, small group or departmental consultations on any topic related to writing instruction and assessment as well as to consult on expectations for Writing Proficiency courses. 

To set up an appointment contact Julie at (360) 650-7329 or at


Writing Instruction Support is a Western Libraries program and Learning Commons partner.