Assignment Design Support for Faculty and Departments

The Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning (ATL) is pleased to offer collaborative assignment design charrettes and mini-workshops to WSU faculty and departments, adapted to meet goals, needs, and individual or group contexts. Developing powerful, clear assignments is one of the most consequential intellectual tasks that faculty undertake in their work as educators. Assignments impact student learning, yet that work is often private and unavailable for collegial exchange and knowledge building. 

The National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) developed a focused process to support faculty in collegial peer discussion intended to 1) stimulate ideas about how to strengthen assignments, 2) better communicate purpose, tasks and expectations to students, and 3) offer a productive space for discussion about teaching and learning. Using this process, faculty and departments can refine assignments to more effectively foster and assess student learning, while increasing possibilities for student success.

Assignment Design Charrette: An assignment design charrette workshop offers instructors an opportunity to share an assignment with peers. In 30-minute carousel format, instructors give feedback on their own and others’ assignments with particular attention paid to the ways in which assignments are linked to and reinforce student learning outcomes, communicate expectations to students, and assess performance. The goal of these workshops is to provide meaningful feedback to help create or modify assignments in order to improve student learning.

Assignment Design Mini-Workshop: An assignment design mini-workshop is an abbreviated form of an assignment charrette and has a somewhat different purpose. Workshops are often organized by discipline or affinity groups. In this format, instructors bring in an existing assignment geared to a particular student learning outcome (SLO) selected in advance. Participants also bring in samples of past student work, usually an exemplary example and less-than-stellar example for sharing with others. In the session, participants brainstorm about ways to fine-tune existing assignments in order to better measure student performance, per the pre-selected SLO and reflecting basic elements of assignment design for transparency (clarifying the purpose, tasks, and expectations to students). Such a workshop might be of particular interest to programs as they plan their direct assessment activities in future semesters.

NILOA adopted the charrette model as a way for scholars to share student assignments with others and to get feedback for improving them. Essentially, the assignment charrette encompasses collaboration and peer-feedback processes in a supportive setting. In summer 2016, ATL in coordination with Dr. Pat Hutchings, offered an extended capstone charrette workshop and professional development opportunity at WSU.

ATL supports assessment in academic programs by providing workshops on a variety of topics, such as assignment design. Please contact us to learn more about ATL’s workshops or to schedule one for your department or program.