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Home Assignment DesignLearning Goals
 Matching Learning Goals to Assignments Types

When we’re clear about our goals for student learning, we can then choose assignments that ask students to do work that will likely result in their achievement of those goals. Provided below is a range of assignments—appropriate to many disciplines—that we can review to determine if they match our learning goals.

Learning goals:

Engage Course Material

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Freewriting
  • generate ideas by writing
  • experiment freely with ideas
  • discover their thoughts about and reactions to course content
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
  • become more comfortable writing
  • know themselves better as writers
Discussion Points
  • read carefully and critically
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Journal or learning log
  • read carefully and critically
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to write more formal papers about readings
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Microtheme
  • see to the heart of an issue
  • concentrate on a single, focused issue
  • select only the most important points to make
  • be concise
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Summary, précis, brief
  • read or listen carefully and critically
  • select the most important points in a reading
  • present points succinctly
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Business or strategic plan
  • prioritize activities, resources, and needs
  • forecast events and needs of a given industry or discipline
  • identify resources and required documents/materials
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
Course/project blog(s)
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
  • debate course concepts publicly
  • craft writing for a specific audience
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Think Critically

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Discussion Points
  • read carefully and critically
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Journal or learning log
  • read carefully and critically
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to write more formal papers about readings
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Book (or article) review
  • read critically and carefully
  • summarize a book’s content
  • analyze a book's structure and method
  • evaluate a book's success
  • select evidence to support an evaluation
Argument paper, position paper
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments
  • write persuasively
Experimental or lab report
  • articulate and describe the purpose of an experiment
  • review relevant literature
  • describe methods accurately
  • organize results logically
  • discuss the significance of results
  • identify needs for further research
  • draw inferences and conclusions based on evidence
Proposal, prospectus for research
  • identify questions that are worth researching and that are manageable within the scope of the course
  • ask good questions
  • see research as a process
  • develop a plan for research
  • develop a methodology for research
  • ask for help in the process of conducting research
  • modify research plans based on the instructor’s response
Oral argument
  • organize/prioritize information
  • analyze, predict, address, and adapt to audience(s)
  • speak publicly
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments write persuasively
Debates
  • organize/prioritize information
  • analyze, predict, address, and adapt to audience(s)
  • speak publicly
  • acknowledge, evaluate, and respond to opposing arguments
  • work in teams
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments write persuasively
Case studies/scenarios/simulations
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • write detailed descriptions of observations or experiences
Library research
  • evaluate the quality of resources
  • identify relevant library resources
  • access resources that are available in the library
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Reflect on Learning and Practice

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Learning plan
  • develop and exhibit meta-cognitive skills
  • develop accountability for their own learning
  • plan over time
  • reflect on their learning
  • identify strategies for learning within the course domain
  • identify personal learning goals relevant to the course or major
Journal or learning log
  • read carefully and critically
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to write more formal papers about readings
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Reflection paper
  • develop metacognitive awareness:
    • understand their own learning process
    • document and evaluate how their understanding of concepts has changed over time
    • develop flexibility with course concepts
    • make the implicit explicit
    • apply self knowledge to future situations
Portfolios
  • assess their own work
  • develop metacognitive awareness
  • assemble materials with an outside audience in mind
  • showcase their best work
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Communicate Effectively

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Argument paper, position paper
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments
  • write persuasively
Experimental or lab report
  • think and write like a scientist
  • identify the purpose of an experiment
  • review relevant literature
  • describe methods accurately
  • organize results logically
  • discuss the significance of results
  • identify needs for further research
Oral argument
  • organize/prioritize information
  • analyze, predict, address, and adapt to audience(s)
  • speak publicly
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments write persuasively
Debates
  • organize/prioritize information
  • analyze, predict, address, and adapt to audience(s)
  • speak publicly
  • acknowledge, evaluate, and respond to opposing arguments
  • work in teams
  • identify an arguable issue
  • think critically about a course-related issue
  • think independently
  • develop an arguable position
  • find and present supporting evidence
  • acknowledge and respond to opposing arguments write persuasively
Peer review
  • evaluate work
  • reinforces students’ understanding of skill and/or concepts
  • understand and apply assessment criteria for an assignment
  • be sensitive to students’ feeling and perspectives
  • formulate constructive suggestions
  • work together and develop interpersonal skills
  • integrate, evaluate, and act on peer feedback
  • learn a key convention of scholarship
Course Wiki or website
  • work together
  • synthesize existing information
  • prioritize and organize information
  • debate the quality of sources and argument
Course/project blog(s)
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
  • debate course concepts publicly
  • craft writing for a specific audience
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Think Creatively

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Performances
  • interpret existing text
  • understand the original context of a work (e.g., some poetry was intended to be performed live)
  • appreciate texts/media
  • speak publicly
Musical compositions
  • perform publicly
  • present course material in innovative, fun, creative ways
  • understand course concepts
Artistic representations of course material
  • present course material in innovative, fun, creative ways
  • analyze, predict, address, and adapt to audience(s)
  • understand, analyze, and respond to critique (peer or otherwise)
  • represent their personal learning and experience
  • connect course material to personal experience
  • practice or display kinesthetic skills
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Develop Scholarly Skills

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Summary, précis, brief
  • read or listen carefully and critically
  • select the most important points in a reading
  • present points succinctly
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Literature review
  • summarize complex readings
  • compare and synthesize different research and arguments
  • understand the state of knowledge on a particular topic
  • think critically about published research
  • evaluate published research
  • discover openings for new research
Experimental or lab report
  • think and write like a scientist
  • identify the purpose of an experiment
  • review relevant literature
  • describe methods accurately
  • organize results logically
  • discuss the significance of results
  • identify needs for further research
Proposal, prospectus for research
  • identify questions that are worth researching and that are manageable within the scope of the course
  • ask good questions
  • see research as a process
  • develop a plan for research
  • develop a methodology for research
  • ask for help in the process of conducting research
  • modify research plans based on the instructor’s response
Annotated bibliography
  • find and select relevant books and articles
  • summarize the contents of books and articles concisely
  • determine the purpose that particular sources will serve in a research paper
  • prepare reference lists in appropriate format
Oral history/interviews
  • understand other ways of thinking and perspectives
  • document real life experiences of others
  • apply qualitative research methods
Fieldwork
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • write detailed descriptions of observations or experiences
Peer review
  • evaluate work
  • reinforces students’ understanding of skill and/or concepts
  • understand and apply assessment criteria for an assignment
  • be sensitive to students’ feeling and perspectives
  • formulate constructive suggestions
  • work together and develop interpersonal skills
  • integrate, evaluate, and act on peer feedback
  • learn a key convention of scholarship
Library research
  • evaluate the quality of resources
  • identify relevant library resources
  • access resources that are available in the library
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Develop Professional Skills

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Summary, précis, brief
  • read or listen carefully and critically
  • select the most important points in a reading
  • present points succinctly
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Internships
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • learn job skills
  • learn professional culture- expectations, conventions, work flows, networking, etc.
Case studies/scenarios/simulations
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • write detailed descriptions of observations or experiences
Business or strategic plan
  • prioritize activities, resources, and needs
  • forecast events and needs of a given industry or discipline
  • identify resources and required documents/materials
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
Strategic plan or other plan of action
  • prioritize activities, resources, and needs
  • forecast events and needs of a given industry or discipline
  • identify resources and required documents/materials
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
↑ Top

Work Together

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Service learning
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
Peer review
  • evaluate work
  • reinforces students’ understanding of skill and/or concepts
  • understand and apply assessment criteria for an assignment
  • be sensitive to students’ feeling and perspectives
  • formulate constructive suggestions
  • work together and develop interpersonal skills
  • integrate, evaluate, and act on peer feedback
  • learn a key convention of scholarship
Course Wiki or website
  • work together
  • synthesize existing information
  • prioritize and organize information
  • debate the quality of sources and argument
↑ Top

Bridge the Academic and the “Real” World

This kind of assignment… Helps students learn to…
Journal or learning log
  • read carefully and critically
  • respond personally to readings
  • differentiate between the ideas in a reading and students’ own ideas about that topic
  • prepare to write more formal papers about readings
  • prepare to participate in a discussion
Oral history/interviews
  • understand other ways of thinking and perspectives
  • document real life experiences of others
  • apply qualitative research methods
Fieldwork
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • write detailed descriptions of observations or experiences
Internships
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • learn job skills
  • learn professional culture- expectations, conventions, work flows, networking, etc.
Service learning
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practical situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
Case studies/scenarios/simulations
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
  • write detailed descriptions of observations or experiences
Business or strategic plan
  • prioritize activities, resources, and needs
  • forecast events and needs of a given industry or discipline
  • identify resources and required documents/materials
  • apply and evaluate course concepts in practice situations
  • identify gaps in their knowledge
  • raise new questions about course concepts
↑ Top

Adapted from the L&S Program in Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.