University Writing

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How to Use this Page

Below are resources that University Writing has developed to support students and instructors across the disciplines in their writing and writing instruction. We define writing broadly, so you will find resources on ePortfolios, visual design, professional communication, and presentations in addition to traditional writing tasks like reflective writing, literature reviews, peer review, and editing and proofing.

Please use the keywords on the right-hand side of the page or the search bar above to navigate these resources. If you would like to use these resources in your course, please follow the Creative Commons information located at the bottom of each resource. If you plan to use the source in its original format, we ask that you leave the University Writing branding intact.

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Tagged Entries: Writing Assignment Design

Effective Writing Assignments

Whether they’re high stakes or low stakes, writing assignments are more effective when faculty articulate clear expectations, explain necessary steps, detail the rhetorical situation (i.e., audience, purpose, and genre), and name criteria for evaluation. Such assignments set students up for success by leaving the guesswork out of assignment basics so they can focus on more substantive matters such as analysis, evidence, and working with sources. Use the resources below to design writing assignments with these features in mind. After you’ve designed your writing assignment, check out our section on scaffolding assignments and writing-to-learn assignments 

Materials designed by Christopher Basgier, Amy Cicchino, and Amber Simpson 

Faculty who want to integrate writing into their courses can use high stakes assignments, low stakes assignments, or some combination of each. This handout defines each kind of writing and explains how you might integrate it into your course 

This handout introduces you to effective writing assignment design using principles from transparent assignment design and The Meaningful Writing Project 

Once you have a draft of your assignment sheet, you can use this self-assessment worksheet to reflect on how well your assignment is achieving the principles in the handout above 

Once you have a draft of your assignment sheet, you can work with a colleague in your department or institution and use this peer assignment worksheet to get feedback on how well your assignment is achieving the principles in the handout above 

Refresh your writing assignment by asking students to address a new audience, purpose, genre, or medium of communication as they explain their knowledge of content. This handout will explain what it means to create a new rhetorical situation for your assignment 

This worksheet will help you compare the existing and redesigned assignment across elements of the rhetorical situation, like audience, purpose, genre, language, organization, and content. While not every rhetorical element needs to change in your redesign process, you should reflect on how changes need to influence scaffolding activities and evaluation criteria 

This handout will help you think through the process of converting an online multiple choice test into a writing assignment 

This handout provides an overview of different kinds of rubrics you might want to use, as well as ways of describing performance levels. It also includes advice for developing a successful rubric 

Peer Review

Peer review can be an effective means for engaging students in writing projects. In peer review, students give one another feedback on a draft of a writing project, or a portion of a writing project, using a set of clear criteria as a guide. 

Materials designed by Christopher Basgier, Amy Cicchino, and Amber Simpson 

This handout will introduce you to peer review and help you learn how to develop a successful peer review for your course 

This handout will help you articulate the role of peer review in your course, both for yourself and for your students. This page includes a set of questions about the role of peer review in your course, and the reverse describes the elements of effective peer feedback 

This resource will help you facilitate a successful peer review across four modalities: online (asynchronous), online (synchronous), hyflex, and in-person with safety protocols in place 

This brief handout can communicate peer review guidelines to your students 

Dr. Djibo Zanzot developed this writing-to-learn prompt and peer review protocol for his Honors Organismal Biology course 

Scaffolding Writing Instruction

Scaffolding is a means of breaking down assignments or tasks into manageable chunks in order to promote student learning and success. A well-scaffolded writing assignment should help students understand your expectations, learn course content, communicate with audiences, and write with a purpose in mind. These resources will help you develop scaffolding writing assignments in your course. 

Materials designed by Travis Adams, Christopher Basgier, Margaret Marshall, Alyssa Pratt, and Djibo Zanzot 

This handout details three approaches to scaffolding you might use in your course: checkpoints, parts of the whole, and upping the ante 

This handout presents two example assignments aimed at evaluating students’ prior knowledge in a particular area. By determining prior knowledge, you can get a better idea of the support students will need as they complete future assignments related to content knowledge and writing in your course 

This worksheet will help you identify and define a difficult concept, and then map different levels of understanding for that concept. You can use these definitions as a basis for crafting your effective assignments 

This handout presents two activities that would help students in scaffolding a research paper. The first one focuses on breaking down the big goal in a series of small tasks so as to provide students with direction. The second one will help you map the syllabus timeline according to the learning required for assignment completion 

This handout includes a range of writing assignments and activities you can ask students to complete in your course in order to promote their learning. Many of these assignments can have high stakes or low stakes versions 

Writing-to-learn prompts can help you design writing prompts to reinforce content learning in your course. Be sure to check out our section on writing-to-learn.