Assignment design and assessment

Assignments should practice one or more of the learning outcomes of the course. Ideally, you should determine how you will assess the assignment as you design it.

There is a set of best practices regarding assignment design. While we may think our assignments are straightforward, our students may not agree. Research tells us that to make our assignments more easily learned from, we should:

  • break down large assignments into small chunks of work
  • provide more frequent, lower-stakes assignments to give more practice
  • plan the assignments to build on successive components as they are taught
  • bear in mind that not all assignments need extensive feedback

When it comes to assessing the assignment, consider that students are better able to learn from focused feedback rather than feedback on all aspects of the assignment.

One way to ensure focused, helpful feedback is to design your assignment while thinking about how you are going to assess it. One tool to do this is a rubric. Traditional rubrics rely on difficult to define concepts like “exceptional work” and “satisfactory work.” Another kind of rubric - a single-point rubric -  may better explain exactly what you will be marking for. Here are some examples created at UVic:

Depending on the assignment, you can either assign points to each aspect of the rubric or leave yourself some freedom to assign points for each category. Rubrics such as these can cut down on student complaints about grading inconsistencies and opaqueness and can help you clearly articulate what constitutes good writing in your discipline.