“I Don’t Understand What You Want in This Assignment.”
We’re interested in assignments. To us, they seem like a vital aspect of instruction that goes largely unexamined. What sparked our interest was the way students so often respond to written assignments: "What do you want?" or "I don’t understand what you want in this assignment.” What follows is an exchange that clarified our thinking about assignments, the students and teachers involved in creating and completing them, and the growing concerns being voiced about the need for greater transparency in assignments. We found our conversation evolved from how professors and their students understand assignments differently to how professors actually write assignment descriptions for their students. We ended up with questions as to what should be included in assignment descriptions, and what's best to leave out. That led us to create a template that Gary has been using in his courses. We think it's broadly applicable and will share it in a subsequent installment of this series.