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Designing Writing Assignments

If your goals planning a particular course for the course include helping your students learn to write in disciplinarily–appropriate ways or write to think through and learn course content—or both—designing effective writing assignments is then a necessary and crucial aspect of your course planning.

Well-designed writing assignments, in short, lead directly to student learning. In doing so, well–designed writing assignments help you achieve your most central student-learning goals and help DePaul University achieve Objective 1A of our Vision2018, as your course places its central “focus...on student learning and success.”

What’s on this page

You’ll find a list of general assignment design principles directly below and then a design template that can help you apply best practices and create an effective and clear/easy-to-understand writing assignment.

Some general principles

  • Clearly link each assignment to the course goals and learning objectives.
  • Break large, high-stakes assignments into multiple, low-stakes assignments.
  • Identify the purpose, audience, and genre (e.g. book review, reflection letter) for the assignment.
  • Design assignments around real-world issues and events to engage and motivate students.
  • Identify resources required for the assignment and make them readily available.
    • Link directly to assignment readings (in your course reserves, for example)
    • Provide model responses to the assignment from previous students whose permission you've received to anonymously share their work. Make sure to take time to discuss these models with your students in class. Be explicit about what makes them successful.
    • Provide supporting structures such as templates, peer review, multiple drafts, and guidelines for library research.
  • Provide grading guidelines for the assignment in the form of rubrics and examples of acceptable and unacceptable work.
  • Revise assignments for next term based on student performance and feedback. Does each assignment develop student expertise in line with course learning goals?
  • Consider how you can create assignments that deter plagiarism. Remember to include plagiarism, re-write, and late work policies in your syllabus.

Writing Assignment Template

Use this one-page PDF template to help you prepare for your class's next writing assignment.

Faculty Development

Matthew Pearson, Faculty Development Program Director in the Center for Writing-based Learning, is available to meet with individual faculty members to revamp existing course assignments or design new writing assignments.

Email Matthew Pearson for an appointment or call (773) 325-8353.

Online Resources

  • Designing Writing Assignments” by Traci Gardner. This free open text is all about designing writing assignments. Jump to chapter 3 to learn what Gardner argues the "three goals of a writing assignment" are.
  • Writing Commons. This site bills itself as a "free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research."