Advice for Designing Writing Assignments

The assignment has a clear purpose. Connect the assignment explicitly to course objectives, the students' goals, and disciplinary and professional writing and thinking.

The assignment has a sense of audience. Most school writing is to the teacher as audience. Consider creating hypothetical audiences (for example, having students write a memo to the CEO of a company or an article for a psychology journal), real audiences (for example, having students write opinion pieces for the Bee or publish blogs), or audiences that the students choose themselves.

The grading criteria of the assignment are clear. Consider using grading rubrics (see the CSUS rubric for writing in the undergraduate major), listing evaluation criteria in the assignment description, and providing students with examples. Match grading criteria with the purpose of the assignment.

The assignment accounts for the writing process. Consider using peer response, responding to drafts, and encouraging students to visit The Writing Center. Break large and complex assignments into smaller, more manageable stages.

The course assignments ask for a variety of levels of thinking and disciplinary genres. Ask students to write at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (see below), and not just the lowest levels. Give students practice in a breadth of assignment types: informal writing, disciplinary genres, "real-world" genres, etc.
 

Bloom's Taxonomy

Knowledge
Comprehension
Application
Analysis
Synthesis
Evaluation
List
Identify
Show
Define
Recall
 
Summarize
Explain
Describe
Compare
Demonstrate
 
Solve
Illustrate
Modify
Interpret
Apply
 
Analyze
Deduce
Contrast
Compare
Discuss
 
Design
Hypothesize
Support
Schematize
Report
 
Evaluate
Estimate
Judge
Defend
Criticize
 

Knowledge level genres: quizzes, short answer exams, lecture notes, outlines


Comprehension level genres: abstracts, literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, reports, mission statements, résumés, interviews, surveys, briefing papers, memos

 

Application level genres: problem sets, lab reports, market forecasts


Analysis level genres:
market analyses, feasibility studies, analytical essays

 

Synthesis level genre: scientific reports, ethnographies, case studies, "write-to-learn" journals, policy statements, grant proposals


Evaluation level genres:
book reviews, executive summaries, editorials, research papers