Assignment Design Teaching Writing

What Does an Effective Assignment Sheet Look Like?


It recently occurred to us that, while we have been sharing resources about designing assignments this semester, we haven’t actually shared any samples of designs.  These resources are helpful when considering how to design our assignments, but they don’t show us how to communicate that assignment through a prompt sheet.  So, they compel us to ask: what does a good assignment sheet actually look like?

As Rebecca Weaver rightly points out, a good assignment sheet facilitates good student writing: “Assignment sheets that clearly explain the purpose, objectives, suggestions for starting, timelines, resources, and evaluation criteria helps students write better papers.”  She likens them to “user’s manuals” that inform students about the process and expectations of an assignment.  When the sheet isn’t clear, doesn’t contain sufficient information, or isn’t written at all, students are left to fill in gaps on their own, which can often lead to poor performance.  As Weaver puts it, we are essentially asking them to “be in our heads.”  Our scholarly training and practice develop writing practices that seem obvious and natural, if not explicit, but those disciplinary conventions are often foreign to undergraduate (and even graduate) students.  Assignment sheet serve as one of the places in which we can share a few of those disciplinary practices with our students.

Weaver’s assignment sheet template is available through her blog post on The Chronicle of Higher Education.  To view Weaver’s template directly, click here.  WAC Mason also has several sample assignments available for review.