CSULA Department of English | Designing Effective Assignments

Well-planned writing assignments are easier for students to do and easier for the instructor to grade. What makes a writing assignment effective? In general effective assignments are

  • given in writing

  • linked to significant course objectives

  • specific about the purpose, audience, and genre

  • organized in stages with opportunities for feedback and revision

  • evaluated based on clearly articulated criteria

It is not necessary to specify all of the rhetorical parameters for each assignment you make, but a few minutes spent thinking about the questions below before creating an assignment will result in better papers and less grading time.



Focusing on Audience, Purpose and Genre

Balancing Low Stakes and High Stakes Assignments

Designing Effective Assignments

Responding to Student Writing

Dealing with Grammar

Emphasizing Style

Using Grading Rubrics

Work Backwards

What skills do you want the assignment to develop? What knowledge do you want students to utilize and/or express? 

What kind of assignment will allow students to develop those skills and utilize that knowledge?

Define the Task

What are they going to learn by doing the assignment? 

Is a specific format (or genre) required? Are students familiar with it? Do you have a model or outline to show them?

What exactly are they supposed to do? What active verbs will help you communicate the task?

Make the Process Explicit

What are the steps required to do the assignment properly? (Are there chapters to read? Library research? Drafts or outlines to get approved?)

What should be done first? Second?

Can students get instructor feedback on drafts? If so, when and how?

Will there be opportunities to revise? (If at all possible, there should be.)

Define the Audience and the Writer’s Role

Who, other than the instructor, might read or use this document?

Is the writer to write as a “professional-in-training”?

Construct Evaluation Criteria

What factors will you look at in evaluating the papers?

How much weight will you give each factor?

How will you know the best papers from the worst?

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