Explaining Assignments

Imagine yourself designing an amazing assignment that really connects your students to the course material, and helps them develop essential skills. Now, imagine that your students submitted this amazing assignment, but few performed the way you expected.

Effectively Explaining Your Assignments

In the scenario above, what went wrong? More often than not, the assignment expectations were not clearly communicated. You can avoid this scenario by seeing the assignment through your students’ eyes, creating assignment guidelines, and by giving students rubrics.

See the assignment through your students’ eyes.

Try to help them understand the assignment’s purpose, intended audience, the manner in which it should be developed, and any expected writing conventions. Do this by:

  • Introducing the assignment early
  • Giving intermediate deadlines for peer reviewing drafts
  • Allowing them to draft assignments during class meetings, along with periodic check-ins

Create assignment guidelines.

Break the assignment into components, explaining each component’s purpose and what should be accomplished. Doing so reduces the guess work for students, which frees up their mind to do the cognitive work for which the assignment is designed.

Give students rubrics.

Rubrics are documents that explain how you will grade student work. These documents include criteria that you will use to evaluate student work, along with descriptions for performance levels. Rubrics take time to create, but the payoff is great. They are wonderful for communicating assignment expectations, allowing students to determine the quality of their work, speeding up grading, and increasing grading accuracy and consistency. Below are exemplary Saint Mary’s rubrics for you to review.

For more information on rubrics, see Grading Your Course.