Designing an Assignment

Consider the following aspects when designing an assignment:

Learning outcomes #

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    • When creating an assignment, start by thinking about learning outcomes from two perspectives:
      1. How does this assignment align with the course learning outcomes or the module/subtopic learning outcomes? In other words, is this assignment relevant to the topic(s) it is intended to assess? Does this assignment help students achieve the course/subtopic/module learning outcomes? If so, how? If not, how can I adjust the assignment to make it so?
      2. Create specific learning outcomes for the assignment itself, state them at the beginning of the assignment, and be sure to go through them when you present the assignment to the students. It will help students make the connection between what you are asking them to do and what they will achieve by doing it. The assignment learning outcomes will also help the instructor determine how well the assignment aligns with the course and module/subtopic learning outcomes (see part A above).

Blooms Taxonomy (Blooms 1956) #

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    • Tasks and questions in assignments are often more elaborate than multiple-choices, fill-in-the-bank and true/false questions found in tests and quizzes. If this is the case, create tasks and questions that require more complex critical thinking, including application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (towards the right side of the chart on p.1 one of “Bloom’s Taxonomy of Measurable Verbs“)
    • Bloom’s Taxonomy of Measurable Verbs” provides lists of verbs and questions stems based on different levels of complexity in critical thinking. These lists provide a great starting point for formulating your assignment questions/tasks.
    • Take the opportunity to help students to contextualize what they learn! Think about how you might get students to create and describe a scenario in which they need to apply the newly acquired concepts in a situation based on their own life experiences and to evaluate the results. For example, describe a situation in which you would apply the concept of “future value of money” to solve a financial problem in your specific industry/business situation; how effective is the solution you proposed with regards to the situation?

Considerations when setting up an online assignment on Quercus #

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    1. Online submission types on Quercus
      • On Quercus, assignments can be submitted as text entry, website URL, media recordings, file upload. Consider the following when choosing the submission types.
        • Text entry: students type their answers directly into a Rich Text Editor while they are logged on to Quercus. This option is best suited to shorter assignments that students can complete in one or a few sittings. Although the Rich Text Editor is equipped with multiple functionalities, including inserting tables, pictures, media files, text formatting and formula insert, students are generally less familiar with these functionalities and may require additional instructions on how to use them. The assignment can be set up so that students can save their work-in-progress and continue at a later date. However, there is a risk that students may lose their work by forgetting to hit the “save” button before exiting, or accidentally hitting the “submit” button instead of “save”.
        • Website URL: this requires students to create a website or submit a link to an existing website as their assignment. This option is very rarely selected by faculty. As such, we will not discuss it in detail here.
        • Media recordings: in addition to a written assignment, consider providing students with the option of submitting their assignment as a video/audio recording. This is a great way to implement the +1 thinking in Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
        • File upload: compared to the text entry option, file upload is suitable for more elaborate written assignments (e.g. essays or projects) for which students can work offline. The final product is then uploaded to Quercus as an attachment.
          • As of March 20, 2021, Quercus provides a “Use Webcam” option in addition to “File Upload”. Students will be able to record their video/audio files and submit them to Quercus.
    2. Using a rubric
        • Consider creating a rubric 1) to help communicate your expectations to students; 2) to help assess the alignment between the tasks/questions and the assignment learning outcomes; 3) to improve consistency and transparency in the evaluation process as well as the grading workflow.

Community Building #

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    • Consider creating group assignment projects in which students submit their collaborative work.
    • Consider getting students to review and critique each other’s work before submission as a formative learning process. peerScholar is a great tool for implementing peer review and is developed at UTSC. Instructions on adding a peerScholar activity.
    • Create a discussion board around the assignment so that students can help answer each other’s questions. The instructor can also maintain a prominent presence by actively participating in the discussion board and guiding students through the process of completing their assignments.

Universal Design for Learning and alternative delivery modes #

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    • +1 thinking: apply this concept and think about at least 1 additional way in which students can deliver their course work. As exemplified in 3 above, you might consider allowing students to submit a video or audio recording instead of a written assignment.
    • Learning outcome equivalency: for the same learning outcomes you set out for the assignment, can you think of alternative ways in which students can demonstrate the same skills/knowledge?
    • Reusability: can you reuse the same learning artifact/scenario, but still get both students to achieve the same learning outcomes by analyzing and critiquing the artifact/scenario, regardless of their delivery mode (i.e. online vs. in-person)?