Crafting an Effective Writing Assignment

  1. Clarify your expectations for each paper.  Writing assignments should include
    • Your specific pedagogical goals, such as to synthesize course content, argue an issue to a specific audience, or demonstrate application of a particular analytical method
    • The rhetorical elements of the paper, such as the audience, purpose, genre, and situation to which the paper is responding
    • The grading criteria you will use
    • A description of the steps students will take in order to create the final product, including any required revisions
  2. Make a rubric for grading. Give students the rubric well before the paper is due and discuss it with them.  For examples of different types of rubrics and scoring guides, see our description of technologies for responding to writing or examples at this website.
  3. Gather models of excellent student work to share with students.  Or assign readings for class that contain the rhetorical elements or conventions you want students to use in their own work, and set aside 5-10 minutes in class to discuss with students the format and conventions (not just the content) of the reading.  For example, have a conversation with students about the format of the typical scientific research article (some variation of Introduction—Methods—Results—Discussion), the rhetorical purposes of each part, and the typical moves writers make in them.