Designing Major Assignments

Assignments are a chance for students to practice new skills, reflect on their growth, receive feedback that allows them to improve, and demonstrate their mastery of the course’s learning goals. They are also an opportunity for you to assess student learning and adjust your instruction in response to student performance. However, many instructors also recount experiences of students spending too much time on trivial aspects of an assignment or not understanding assignment expectations.

This resource focuses on designing the major assignments in a course, also called summative assessments. These typically take place after learning is complete and often require students to synthesize a number of skills. However, this resource will also ask you to consider low stakes opportunities for students to practice new skills and reflect on their growth, or formative assessments, as ways to help students prepare for major assignments. (See Yale University’s page on formative and summative assessment for more information.) Spending some additional time on assignment design will lead to student submissions that accurately reflect their knowledge and a smoother grading process for you. While the focus here is on designing new assignments, you can also review this resource if you are refining an assignment.

The resource includes pages on: