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Creating Effective Writing Assignments: How to Construct Writing Assignments That Produce Writing We Want to Read

What makes one writing assignment more effective than another? Why do first-year students often misinterpret what instructors believe to be perfectly clear writing assignments? This session will attempt to answer those questions and will help instructors
by

Matt Hollrah

on 14 April 2010

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Transcript of Creating Effective Writing Assignments: How to Construct Writing Assignments That Produce Writing We Want to Read

What do students need to know?
Can students write the assignment without specialized knowledge?
Where will students go to find the information they need to write the assignment?
Genre
argument
narrative
summary
analysis
critique
If the assignment asks students to answer a question, does the question avoid binary answers (yes/no, true/false, right/wrong, good/bad)?
Is the assignment too open-ended? For example, “How do you feel about texting while driving?” might produce a lot of opinionated answers. However, if no purpose for the assignment is given, students won’t know how they are supposed to direct their response. Should they weigh opposing viewpoints? Should they write about personal experiences? Should they make a recommendation to the state legislature?
Creating Effective Writing Assignments
Does the assignment ask for information that is too personal or private?
Purpose
what the writing will do
what role the students will play
Students need to think about their writing as an action intended to produce a particular effect in the minds of readers.
Relevance
good assignments ask students to engage with a topic they perceive as important
Audience
the class
the university
citizens of Edmond
Context
instead of "Define success in 500 words"
try "Reflect on a time when you did something successful. Explain what your success was and how you accomplished it. Then, go on to speculate about why others might define success differently."
Length of Writing Prompt?
more than half a page but less than two pages
Clear and specific guidelines: length, due date, grading criteria, rough drafts, research requirement (number of sources to be used), other expectations.
Build in some choice. If all students have to do the exact same thing, then a host of other problems arise: plagiarism, clichéd responses, grading fatigue, lack of creativity in general, lack of student interest in the assignment.
Final Paper for Success Strategies
Service Learning Paper for Success Central
Journal Assignment for Success Central
Success Central Interview Assignment

Erika Lindemann's Writing Assignment Heuristic

What do I want the students to do?
How do I want them to do the assignment?
For whom are the students writing?
When will students do the assignment?
What will I do with the assignment?
Why are students doing the assignment?
Where Writing Assignments Go Awry
Matt Hollrah, PhD
Professor of English and Chair
English Department
University of Central Oklahoma
Learning Objective for Success Central
Recognize the factors that contribute to academic and social success in a collegiate environment and identify behaviors that place students at risk for failure.
Learning Objective for Success Strategies
Understand methods to overcome life obstacles and have a heightened sense of personal responsibility.
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