While working on a new syllabus for one of my spring classes, I took a break to read a Faculty Focus blog posting entitled “Could We Be Doing Better with our Assignments?” (Yes, if I were talking to a student I would identify this as procrastination…) One paragraph there made me stop and think.
I realized that while I spend time rethinking topics for assignments, or dates for assignments, or weights for assignments, or directions for assignments, or rubrics for assignments, I really don't spend much quality time rethinking the mix and type of assignments per se.Most faculty, regardless of discipline, use a similar mix of assignments. We have our students write papers. In recent years, we have seen some movement away from the traditional, research-based, term paper. Today’s papers are shorter and more frequent, but they are still papers. We give multiple-choice or short-answer exams, which students take individually, usually within a designated time period and without access to resources or expertise. We use quizzes, assign homework problems, and maybe some sort of group project in an upper division or capstone course, but that’s about it. And we recycle assignments, using pretty much the same ones every time we teach the course and in every course we teach.
Help? What kind of assignment–other than the traditional papers, homework questions, quizzes, individual timed exams, and group projects—do you assign in your courses? What made you think of it? How does it work? I would love to learn some new tricks to spice up my old assignment categories. Please share your ideas in this last Teaching Matters blog before the holiday break.