Designing Writing Assignments

These resources provide insight and instruction on how to create writing assignments for specific goals and objectives; in short, how to create writing assignments to produce the writing you want.

Designing Writing Assignments [TEACHING E-GUIDE]
Writing Studio – Colorado State University

A teaching guide from the acclaimed Colorado State University Writing Studio on how to design writing assignments. The guide first presents five principles for creating effective assignments: 1) Tie the writing task to specific pedagogical goals, 2) Note rhetorical aspects of the task, i.e., audience, purpose, writing situation, 3) Make all elements of the task clear, 4) Include grading criteria on the assignment sheet, and 5) Break down the task into manageable steps. Then the guide addresses these goals through explanations, checksheets, sample assignments, and teacher commentary.

Creating Writing Assignments [E-HANDOUT]
MIT Online Writing and Communication Center – MIT

Taking a recipe approach, this e-handout goes through the ingredients needed to produce an effective writing assignment: assignment goals, defined writing task, audience, criteria for evaluation, and writer’s role. The handout also includes a checklist, a discussion of sequencing writing assignments, and a list of assignment formats.

Designing Writing Assignments [E-HANDOUT]
Manoa Writing Program – University of Hawaii at Manoa

The University of Hawaii’s writing program uses its work with instructors teaching and students taking writing-intensive courses to produce instructor resources such as this one. This e-handout presents a table that addresses how students read or interpret writing assignments and how that may or may not match what instructors expect.

What Students Ask about Writing Assignments [E-HANDOUT]
Center for Writing – University of Minnesota

Condensing the material the University of Hawaii at Manoa gathered from interviewing 200 plus students, this e-handout divides key student questions about writing assignments into four queries that form the foundation of this handout: 1) How will the assignment help me learn the course material? 2) How would the instructor go about doing this assignment? 3) How does the assignment relate to the discipline? and 4) what criteria are you going to use to grade the paper?

Designing Writing Assignments [TEACHING E-GUIDE]
Writing Across the Curriculum – University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts

This teaching guide looks at three types of assignments used in writing-intensive courses: short assignments (these are often ungraded and activities that promote writing as a way of learning, or writing-to-learn for short), longer assignments (these assignments build critical thinking skills and are developed through a series of drafting and revision), and collaborative writing (this involves students working in groups to produce writing).

Resources for Students

Understanding Assignments [E-HANDOUT]
The Writing Center – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A nice design feature of e-handouts from the UNC Writing Center is the opening abstract of what the handout is about. This e-handout states “The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. This handout will help you unravel your assignment directions and help you begin to craft an effective response. Much of the following advice will involve translating typical assignment terms and practices into meaningful clues to the type of writing your instructor expects.”

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