Beyond Busywork: Designing Assignments that Work

This fall, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site continually evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learning, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.

Assignments—papers, projects, tests, performances—are crucial opportunities for students to practice the skills and test out the knowledge they’re gaining in your courses, but are your assignments fostering the kind of student work you were hoping to see? Are they helping you reach your goals for students and for the course as a whole? With these questions (and others) in mind, we recently added Assignment Design to the Teaching Commons and we hope it can help you think about what goes into designing a really productive assignment. The page talks about learning goals and reinforcing learning, articulating good instructions and assessing the work that comes in, and shares several examples—everything from a take-home exam to an iterative design project— from faculty from across the university, including Sherry Linkon (English), Joshua Meredith (SCS), Deb Sivigny (Performing Arts), Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila (Anthropology), and Sabrina Wesley-Nero (EDIJ). Check it out!

As always, let us know how else we can help!