Our March installment in the collection of materials on assignments included an assignment template we proposed could be used as part of the assignment design process. We used the template to describe an assignment in which students read the syllabus and responded to it in writing. We plan to continue using the template to illustrate interesting and innovative assignments—ones that can be widely used, in different courses, and with various kinds of content.
The inspiration for this month’s template comes from a 2017 article by Julie Empric in which she describes an assignment that tackles a problem that occurs in many courses. Students leave class or log out online and forget about what happened in the session. Empric’s assignment gets students thinking about what happened in the session—how the content relates to what’s in the reading or what’s been covered in previous sessions, questions, thoughts, ideas they have in response to the material, examples where they see it at work, or situations where it relates and could be applied.
Empric calls these assignments “Afterthoughts” and has students share their “Afterthoughts” in class as part of their participation grade. If the assignment is of interest, we’d encourage you to read why Empric opted for an assignment like this, how she’s using it, and how her students have responded to it.
One of the things we like about Empric’s assignment is how flexible it is. You can use it in lots of different ways and to accomplish different objectives. Here’s a rundown of some of the options that came to us.
Finally, this is an assignment that can be handled in manageable ways. Take a look at these suggestions.
With all these assignments, there’s a need adapt, change, and adjust them so that they fit with how you teach, the course content, other assignments in the course, and the learning needs of your students. When Gary used this assignment in his composition course, he called it “Afterwords” (Maryellen thinks that’s a clever title modification given the course). His students have a “daily writing” assignment and Afterwords can fulfill the writing their obligated to provide. He identifies seven kinds of Afterwords and lets students select the one they want to do, while encouraging them to use different kinds across the assignment. His set of assessment criteria each have three levels, which he can check off quickly.
Check out the assignment template that follows. We’ve formatted it so that it could be given to students in lieu of the more typical assignment description. It’s detailed but as we’ve noted in earlier discussions of assignments, we think it’s useful to identify for students what knowledge and skills the assignment will develop. And if they’re beginning students, the task lists answers to common student questions about what it is you want in this assignment. That may be especially important in this case since the assignment is not one students have experienced in other courses.
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