Overview: Designing Effective Assignments

Informal Writing Assignments

Author: 
Brad Hughes, Martin Nystrand, Paige Byam, and Tom Curtis
Description: 
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in such a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.

The Question Box

Sequenced Assignments with Different Forms of Media

Author: 
Greg Downey, Library and Information Studies
Description: 
Taught by Professor Greg Downey, this hybrid in-person/online course gives students the chance to experiment with personal publishing tools such as weblogs and video podcasts.

The Information Society: Hybrid In-person/Online Course Syllabus

A Sequence of Informal and Formal Writing Assignments in a Psychology of Religion Syllabus

Author: 
Colleen Moore, Psychology of Religion, UW-Madison
Description: 
As her students work toward a 10-15 page research paper, Professor Colleen Moore assigns 8 shorter papers that build from informal to formal writing and simple to complex rhetorical tasks, enabling her students to practice and build their writing skills.

Psychology of Religion 411

This course examines religions and religious phenomena from the point of view of empirical psychology. This is a Level III (Advanced) Psychology course that assumes some sophisticated background in either psychology or religious studies.

 

Sequencing Different Genres of Writing Assignments in a Women’s Studies Syllabus

Author: 
Caitilyn Allen, Plant Pathology, UW-Madison
Description: 
Professor Caitilyn Allen’s writing-intensive Women’s Studies syllabus includes her expectations for polished and revised drafts as well as overviews of the various papers she assigns throughout the semester.

Women’s Studies 530: Biology and Gender

 

Sequenced Graded And Ungraded Writing Assignments In A Writing-Intensive Literature Syllabus

Author: 
Lynn Keller, English, UW-Madison
Description: 
This sample syllabus shows how Professor Lynn Keller assigns ungraded, low-stakes journal writing in her writing-intensive literature course to let her students develop their ideas before they turn them into a high-stakes, graded essay.  

Modern American Literature Since 1914

 

Time and Place: 2:30‑3:45 110 Noland
Office hours: Tuesday 1:00‑3:00 and by appointment
7131 Helen C. White Hall, 263‑3794
e‑mail: rlkeller@facstaff.wisc.edu

 

Course Description:

Why Learning to Write Well in College Is Difficult

Author: 
Bill Cerbin, Assistant to the Provost, UW-La Crosse, and Terry Beck, Department of English, UW-La Crosse
Description: 
In this list, Cerbin and Beck offer insightful explanations for why students struggle when they move from high school to college writing and when they write in different disciplines. Cerbin and Beck offer instructors explicit issues to consider when designing writing assignments, working with students on writing, and evaluating written work.

The following list is not, of course, meant to rationalize sub-par writing by college students. Nor can one course instructor address all the challenges listed below.

Why Should I Use Writing Assignments in My Teaching?

Author: 
Brad Hughes, UW-Madison WAC Program
Description: 
The premise of this WAC website--and of the WAC movement overall--is that effectively designed writing assignments enhance our teaching and our students' learning.  While acknowleding that assigning and evaluating writing is time consuming, this page offers a number of persuasive arguments why writing assignments are part of effective teaching and learning.

That's a good question, actually. Let's be honest–-there are, after all, many reasons why we might not want to assign writing in our courses. And many of those reasons have to do with the limited time we all can devote to teaching. Designing writing assignments and responding to student writing take valuable time—lots of time if we do them carefully.

A Writing Portfolio Project in Math 130

Author: 
Brad Franklin, Mathematics Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
In this course for math-education students, students do a series of various writing assignments throughout the semester, culminating in this portfolio of their written work.

A Portfolio Project in Math 

 

Purpose: 

Sample Evaluation Criteria for Papers in a Philosophy Course

Author: 
Jocelyn Johnson, Philosophy Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
This kind of rubric, from an undergraduate philosophy course on contemporary moral issues, not only emphasizes the traits of successful papers but also, with its continuum for each trait, gives students a quick visual sense of strengths and of areas to improve.  Notice that the instructor gives open-ended comments as well.  And notice the excellent explanations of the evaluation criteria--some terms, like "orginality," need explanining within the context of a particular course and particular assignment.

Sample Paper Evaluation Sheet in Philosophy

 

 

Name:_________________________________  Topic:_______________________________________________

 

 

 

Peer Assessment of Research and Review Teams

Author: 
Brian Manske, Biology 152, UW-Madison
Description: 
When students work regularly in groups, some instructors find it helpful to have students assess each group member's contributions.  Here's an example of that kind of assessment, from Biology/Botany/Zoology 152 at UW-Madison.

Biology 152: Research and Review Team Peer Assessment Rubric

 

Bio152 Learning Goal - Develop and apply collegial etiquette and project management skills

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