The spring semester has only just begun at Virginia Tech, so it’s a terrific time to be thinking about the subtleties of assignment design. The Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric offers the best resources available to guide and support the assignment design process. Consider, for example, this, the first of eight suggestions for crafting effective writing prompts:
Break the assignment down into specific tasks. If, for example, you want students to compare the effectiveness of two political movements, you might first ask students to define the goals of each movement; then to consider the history of each movement; then to discuss how the history of the movement affected the creation of its goals; and finally, to consider how history influenced the movement’s ultimate success (or failure).
The assignment design resource includes many other invaluable insights into backward design for syllabi, timing (or spacing) and writing processes, orienting assignment prompts to outcomes, and attempting assignments before asking students to complete them.