Designing Effective Assignments

Designing Writing Assignments for *Non-Majors*

Shannon Skelton

I am under no illusions about why students enroll in my Comm-B section of Introduction to Theatre and Dramatic Literature. Although they may have an interest in the subject, students’ primary motivation is securing that elusive Comm-B credit. As a result, most of my students are not majoring in theatre and drama, or even in literature or the arts.

A Sequence of Formal and Informal Assignments

Colleen Moore
Before and during the time her students begin work on their 10-15 page research papers, Professor Colleen Moore assigns eight shorter papers that encourage students to engage in critical thinking, careful reading, clear summarizing, and in-depth analysis. Moore's sequence initially builds from informal to formal writing and from simpler to more complex rhetorical tasks, enabling her students to practice and build their writing skills. While students are researching and writing their term papers, her assignments push students to stay engaged in the writing process and make it possible for her to give them feedback on their work in progress. Note also her very clear and explicit instructions and goals for students in each assignment.

Course goals:


A Sample Journal Assignment

Karen Ryker
Professor Karen Ryker's journal assignment asks students to respond to readings, to class activities, and to rehearsals.

The journal sets down your daily response to the textbook, to exercises and classwork, to your rehearsals. It should record specific, thoughtful analysis of information and methods and how they improve your technique.

About These Photos

We've chosen these photos to honor some of the many people who make Writing Across the Curriculum happen at UW-Madison.


Photo #1

Writing Center

Designing Assignments to Discourage Plagiarism

Alice Robison
What can instructors do to design assignments that will discourage plagiarism? Alice Robison offers some suggestions and ideas.

Plagiarism is a serious topic raised frequently when we talk about responding to student writing, and it makes sense that we should want to talk about plagiarism in the context of evaluating and responding to student writing because it is at that moment—after the fact—that we discover that plagiarism or cheating has occurred.

Reinventing the Intermediate Organic Chemistry Laboratory

How does one go about updating a curricular classic? And what role do writing assignments play? These are the questions we asked Assistant Professor Helen Blackwell, recent winner of a prestigious university teaching award. We were interested in how she and colleagues reinvented the Intermediate Organic Chemistry Laboratory (Chemistry 346).

A Collaborative Term Project in Consumer Science

Irena Vida
Professor Irena Vida explain the requirements of a group term paper and presentation. Note that although she gives no explicit directions regarding how the group should divide responsibilities, she does ask students to report back on the contribution of each group member to the final project.

This team project assignment consists of a descriptive and historical account of a major U.S. retail chain with store branches in at least 10 different states. The chain you choose to research can be any company that falls within the definition of retailing in our textbook (traditional retailer, nonstore retailer, service retailer).

Some Concrete Tips for Working with Multilingual Writers

· Think carefully about unspoken assumptions about successful writing in your course and try to make your expectations as explicit as possible.


Burning Questions--Why Your Students Should Have Them

Matthew Pearson
Encouraging your students to write about issues that genuinely interest them is one of the best ways to help students to learn new things in your course and to write high-quality papers.

One of the challenges facing any instructor is trying to pinpoint why some papers are compelling and pleasurable to read, while others are difficult to get through, or simply not that exciting to read. Often, a central reason for less-than-stellar writing is that a few students do not have a genuine interest in their topics and a desire to know more about it.

Writing Assignments in Anthropology 490

Karen Strier
Focusing on the point, structure, audience, topic, and format for course papers, anthropologist Karen Strier advises her students about writing the one and five-page papers for her writing-intensive senior seminar.

This is a writing intensive course, which means frequent writing assignments, lots of feedback, opportunities to work on both the content of your papers and how you communicate your knowledge and ideas in writing. The writing assignments are intended to fulfill the assumption that “writing facilitates learning.” I think you will enjoy them.

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