When performing an assignment it sometimes happens that students are struggling with questions such as: How extensive is this assignment supposed to be? What is the lecturer aiming at with this assignment? What exactly is the point of this assignment?

One of the possible reasons why students ask these questions is, that the assignment description is not entirely clear. In preparing assignments, as a teacher, we best reflect on three quality criteria to optimize the chances for a student to successfully complete the assignment.

Project 366  260812 Stay On Target

Criterion 1: Will doing the assignment reach the intended learning objective(s) / outcome(s)?

When you create an assignment, you have a specific purpose in mind. The assignment must guarantee that there is a particular learning effect for the student. Therefore, make sure that students know exactly what is expected of them. To do this:

 -   The learning outcomes you have in mind for this assignment, should be explicitly formulated in the assignment description;

-    Read the assignment description critically to improve clarity and completeness. For example, with the instruction 'solve the exercises below', in case of a series of exercises, without explicitly stating that the students should write down the method they followed (though which you can understand the reasoning ability of the student), you risk that students only indicate their final solution;

-   If applicable, give the evaluation criteria. Assessment criteria do reflect the aimed at learning outcomes. This will allow the students to clearly see where the emphasis is placed in the assignment and to what they need to pay particular attention;

-   Always let a colleague review the formulation of the assignment, on clarity.

Note: Picture  "Project 366 #239: 260812 Stay On Target!" by Pete under CC BT 2.0 


Criterion 2: Does the assignment sufficiently motivate the student to complete it?

The motivation of students will affect the extent to which they are committed to bring the task (assignment) to a successful conclusion. Try to include in the assignment sufficient motivational elements. One of the most common ways is to mark the assignment. However, there are also other ways:

- Relate to the interests of the students:

    • choose topics that fit their personal experience;
    • let students themselves choose a theme for the assignment;
    • choose themes that are part of future professional life of the student.


- Emphasize the relevance of the task:

    • frame the assignment within future professional practice or future training;
    • link the assignment to the what is presently debated in the news or literature.

 Note: Picture  "Studying math" by Steven S. under CC BT 2.0 

In A Wink

Criterion 3: Is the assignment description clear enough?

Transparency and clarity are important to ensure that the assignment can be accomplished. Therefore, make sure that the following elements are included in the assignment instruction/description:

-        The objectives of the assignment;

-        (Possibly) a method to be followed / roadmap;

-        The planned guidance the student will be able to count on;

-        The planned feedback process;

-        The formal aspects (requirements) of the final product;

-        The deadline (s);

-        The evaluation criteria.

Note: Picture  "En un clin d'oeil/In a wink/En un guiño Explore" by Elf-8 under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


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