Module Six: Developing Effective Assignments for K-12

An Assignment Is First a Learning Task

Students learn by practice and assignments, whether done during class time or outside of class. They are a way for students to practice and to find out what they do and do not understand. One way to think about assignments is to consider them as learning tasks and as opportunities for intellectual growth, challenge, and assessment. Creating learning tasks that students find engaging and relevant can be challenging. One important general principle is for teachers to build assignments that enable students to display their experiences and interests. This personalizes the assignment and tailors the activity for the unique perspective of the members of class. With the ease of access to the plethora of information in the world, teachers need to bring relevancy to the assignments they design. Examples may include personal journal writing for those more verbal students or mathematical problems associated with the students' environment for those students who are quantitatively inclined. Students with a scientific leaning may be more interested in physics involving roller coasters, skiing, or air flight; for those students interested in science, assignments would cover genetics involving the family characteristics.
How Can Teachers Improve Their Assignments?
Teachers can greatly improve the efficiency, explanation, and delivery of their assignments by answering a few questions in the preplanning stage. These questions will guide the teacher in ensuring that the preparation of the assignment has been well thought out and that students know what is expected of them.
  • Are the requirements of the assignment clear to the students?
  • Does the assignment have clear and distinct objectives?
  • Is the assignment appropriate for the entire class?
  • Are the resource requirements for the assignment clear and reasonable?
  • Have I given the students enough time to complete the assignment?
  • Have I prepared and provided scaffolds for students to understand and complete the assignment?
  • Have I answered all of the students' questions about the assignment?
  • Have I provided the students with a copy of the assignment, examples of acceptable evidence, and a demonstration of expected outcomes?
Creating Engaging Assignments

Assignments should provide today’s students with problem-solving, critical thinking, and individual and collaborative group opportunities. Creating engaging work begins in the design of the task. To develop work for students that will engage them in their learning and promote their independence and interdependence as learners, see Table 1.0 Schlechty's Qualities of Engaging Work in the Student Engagement Module.

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