Assignments and Rubrics

In most courses, assignments form the majority of students’ work. It is important that you convey expectations for assignments and their completion in a clear but supportive way. Adopting the stance of “no secrets teaching” will allow you and your students to have the most successful learning and you, the most rewarding teaching experience possible. Begin with identifying the course learning objectives (using measurable verbs) and how you will assess competencies. Design the final assessment and the interim higher-stakes assessments to engage students and support mastery. This allows you to sequence learning that leads toward mastery. Giving rubrics with assignment descriptions will give your students a clear picture of the learning expectations. 

  • Outline what is expected of your students; use measurable verbs in your objectives.
  • Assess your students’ prerequisite knowledge and skills.
  • Strive to align your assignment rigor within the Zone of Proximal Development of your student population or use scaffolded mini-assignments to build students up to the rigor needed for major assignments.
  • Consider using adaptive technologies and dashboards to assist in tracking student progress.
  • Provide clear, concise prompts for assignments and adequate directions to complete the assignment (e.g., how to cite sources, access the library, etc.)
  • Allow for rough drafts, revisions, and peer feedback. Give students opportunities to engage in self/peer assessment of a draft of their assignment using the rubric. group icon
  • Engage students in Project “exemplar” analysis before an assignment is due. Use the rubric for this analysis.
  • Strive to leave room for student self-expression.
  • Prescribe outcomes, but not so closely that you stifle creativity.
  • Where possible, provide prompts that allow for more than one way of expressing mastery. group icon
  • Scaffold large assignments; check for understanding along the way.
  • Create real-life, authentic assessment opportunities. group icon
  • Create rubrics for assignments, papers and presentations. Building a rubric handout. Video tutorial [8:00]
  • Ask students for feedback about assignments and then revise them.

Additional Considerations for Teaching Online

While most of the information on teaching effectiveness pertains to both RI and online classrooms, following are a few key points for online courses.

Clear and explicit assignment instructions are crucial in online courses.

  • Make sure that you outline everything students need to complete an assignment—including due dates and links to other resources, as well as anticipating and answering their questions in your assignment instructions.
  • State your grading policy at the beginning of the online course. On your syllabus or a page at the start of the course, you should clearly detail:
    • Points, percentages and weights for all course-grade components
    • Relationship among points, percentages, weights and letter grades
    • Late-submission policy
    • Your turnaround time for grading assignments
  • Rubrics you would create and include in your RI course should be built into the learning management system (LMS) so that students have them handy for each assignment they need to complete and can clearly see how the points for each assignment are allocated.
  • Another special consideration for an online course is including information about how discussion forums will be graded. How many times do students need to post per forum? When are these posts due? What criteria will be used to evaluate their responses? Following is a sample discussion rubric for an online course. How would you modify it to meet the needs of your online class? Discussion Grading Rubric.