Designing High-Impact Writing Assignments

College of Science

We often think of writing as a tool that prompts deep learning, but we don’t always talk about how to use writing assignments to realize this goal.  That might let us assume that assigning any kind of writing will lead to deep learning, or it might prompt us to wonder if there are particular practices that promote this goal more than others.  According to research by Paul Anderson, Chris Anson, Robert Gonyea, and Charles Paine, the answer is the latter: the quality of the assignment design has a greater impact on learning than the amount of writing students are asked to compose. Fortunately, their research has begun to uncover several high impact practices that instructors can use to design writing assignments across the curriculum. They describe these practices as follows: 

Interactive Writing Processes, in which students communicate orally or in writing with others about an assignment at some point between receiving it and submitting the final draft.

Meaning-Making Writing Tasks, which require students to engage in some form of integrative, critical, or original thinking.

Clear Writing Expectations, which involve instructors communicating accurately what they want their students to do in an assignment and the criteria they will use to evaluate the students’ submissions.

Anderson, Anson, Gonyea, and Paine claim that incorporating these practices into the design of writing assignments enables deeper learning and contributes to students’ personal and social development. To read more about these practices, including how writing programs have incorporated them, please visit the following links:

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