Faculty Resources

Characteristics for Effective Writing Assignments

Here are some characteristics that you can implement in your course organization to help students produce effective writing assignments.

  • Assignments are provided and explained in writing.
    Announce your writing assignments in the course syllabus, and explain the weighting course writings will have in the calculation of course grades. But follow up the syllabus announcement by spelling out your particular aims for writing assignments in separate handouts for each assignment.

  • Writing assignments are linked to significant course objectives.
    Students will take integtrated writing assignments more seriously than those that seem merely supplementary.

  • Notices of assignments specify the purpose for writing, the audience to be addressed, the mode or form of the writing, and its length.
    Your rationale for the assignment will help to make the writing more meaningful for students. Your expectations for their performance can engage them early in self-assessment of their work. Models of the forms and modes of writing you expect can help students to work more efficiently. And your specifications of the length of the writing help students better plan their writing projects.

  • Assessment criteria are specified.
    How would you describe excellent student performance on your course writing assignment? How would you describe competent performance? Do you have a minimum standard below which papers would not be unacceptable?

  • Due dates are specified.

  • Longer writing projects are organized in stages.
    Shorter writing assignments can be paced across the semester. They may be tailored to follow topical progression of course content or increase gradually in sophistication as students develop competence in the subject. Longer assignments can be organized so that elements of the writing project or multiple drafts are submitted for evaluation and feedback in manageable increments.