October 15th, 2014

Could We Be Doing Better with Our Assignments?


Assignments are a terribly important part of the teaching and learning equation. They aren’t just random activities that faculty ask students to complete for points and grades; they are the vehicles through which students learn course content. By studying for exams and engaging with content as they write their papers, students deepen their understanding of key concepts and build learning connections. In short, assignments represent learning experiences for students and, as Dee Fink reminds us, we want those learning experiences to be “significant.” Is that how you’d describe your most often-used assignments? Are they the only ways students could encounter and explore course content? Are they still the best ways?

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.

Of course, not everyone uses these common assignments. Some faculty have created or developed unusual and innovative assignments. Maybe you have, or you’ve heard about such an assignment. However, I’m guessing that most of us couldn’t list more than a couple and that’s because there are few mechanisms for sharing assignments. Despite the time and intellectual muscle it takes to develop good ones and the assessment needed to work out the bugs and continue to increase their effectiveness, assignment creation is not considered scholarly work. Again, there are a few exceptions, but most pedagogical journals don’t publish assignment descriptions. Some professional associations with teaching resource collections include assignments, but there aren’t many featured and they aren’t widely accessed.

Are assignments discipline-specific? The fact that we all use so many of the same ones would seem to indicate that they are not. But what about those innovative, unique assignments? The content covered in those assignments is discipline-specific, but the frameworks usually aren’t. What a teacher in one course is having students do can often be adapted to work in all kinds of courses. With slight modifications, the assignment can become something used with different content, in a course with different learning goals, and for students with different background knowledge and skill levels.

What most of us need is exposure to new and interesting assignments. They are the water that primes our intellectual pumps. They get us thinking in new directions and pretty soon we’re onto a different but equally creative alternative. But when we’re busy teaching, grading, advising, getting to meetings, and making it home in time to start dinner, finding the energy to think creatively about assignments isn’t easy.

Could we try to do an assignment exchange here on the blog? If you’ve used a different kind of assignment, have a different way of testing knowledge, have students write things other than papers, have groups doing unusual activities, or do something other than the usual with homework assignments, please do a copy-and-paste from your syllabus and drop it in the comments section below. Remember, our goal is a collection of assignments—things students do for credit that, and if done as they are designed, end up being those rich learning experiences.

I’m feeling the need to note that many teachers I encounter don’t give themselves credit for having developed creative assignment alternatives. Some of us are self-deprecating, but more often I think we teach in such isolation that we have no frame of reference. Since we don’t know what others are doing, we really don’t believe we have come up with something special that might be of benefit to other teachers and their students. Don’t devalue your assignment designs.

The beautiful thing about pedagogical knowledge is that it’s shared freely among teachers. We don’t think of good teaching ideas as intellectual property belonging to the developer. Most faculty I know are only too happy to give and receive instructional materials. Please don’t prove me wrong here.

© Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

  • kbv7001

    In my public speaking class, I have students participate in a mobile scavenger hunt. The outcome is to be able to evaluate a variety of different objects and/or visuals that demonstrate motivational appeal (needs and values). This assignment is designed to prepare students for their persuasive speech. They work in teams to create a video collage (with mobile app of their choice) to share with the class. This is followed by an in-class discussion and reflection about the objects/visuals they found and why, as well as the process.
    In the past three years, it has not only improved students' persuasive speeches, but has created strong class community.

    • NAS

      Hello – I teach argument and reasoning, and one of our major speeches is a persuasive argument. Would you mind sharing the details of this assignment with me? I love the idea of assignments that allow students to use their phones in class and gets them active 🙂 Many thanks! smith.n@lynchburg.edu

  • EPL

    MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) II is a superb resource for OER material across disciplines – http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

  • rmforsyth

    We encourage people to use a range of assignment types – some traditional, some less so – current list is here http://www.celt.mmu.ac.uk/assessment/design/types

  • kharrison436

    I use Pixton <a href="http:// (www.pixton.com)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(www.pixton.com)” target=”_blank”>(www.pixton.com) as the tool for a small-group assignment for my Diversity in the Workforce class. First, I have the students create a 3-box comic as homework. This comic can be about anything they want; I just want them to play around and learn the tool. For the main assignment, we first watch a YouTube video and then they are given the following instructions:
    Having watched the video about privilege and disability, you are going to create a comic strip about privilege. As a group you should: 1. Select the identity group you want to focus on. (Spend no more than 2-3 minutes doing this!) 2. Brainstorm ideas for how the minority group(s) could be privileged over the dominant group in an alternate world. 3. Create a storyboard on paper of your comic strip. Use at least 3 examples of privilege. 4. Look at the rubric and make sure you are meeting all the expectations. 5. Create the comic. Worry about the main details first, and then go back and fill in the smaller, less significant details later, if you have time. 6. Submit the comic strip by the end of class. While this assignment is specific to the course, the main aspects of it could be adapted to a variety of courses and grade levels.

    • NAS

      This is a wonderful assignment that could also be used in my Interpersonal Communication course. Loving these ideas! Many thanks, all.

  • alerougetel

    In my post-graduate diploma communication course in the Technology Management program, my students are creating ePortfolios. This assignment is designed to get them to think about their learning and how they will apply that learning to their work after graduation. It is proving a real challenge for them (international students). I've pasted in the assignment sheet below.

    MANAGERIAL COMMUNICATION. Fall 2014: Assignment: ePortfolio

    INTRODUCTION An ePortfolio is an online version of what could be called a ‘scrapbook’. It contains artifacts (pieces of work) that relate to the course and to the student’s learning. All components of this ePortfolio must be original and prepared by the student who is submitting the ePortfolio.
    RATIONALEThis assignment reflects the post-graduate level of learning expected of students in the Technology Management program. It is designed to encourage and showcase critical thinking and reflective assessment by the individual of their learning in the course – and across the program.
    OBJECTIVETo give you a formal (and assessed) opportunity to apply the theories and concepts we are learning in Managerial Communication to your own work in this course and/or to your work in other courses in the Technology Management program.
    DETAILS•Your ePortfolio must contain a minimum of three artifacts and a maximum of five.
    •You will prepare a formal proposal to Amanda in which you outline your ideas and the weighting of the components of the ePortfolio. Amanda must approve your proposal before you proceed.
    •You may include only work you have completed yourself. However, this work can come from any of your courses in the Technology Management program.
    •The purpose of the ePortfolio is for you to demonstrate your learning to your instructor and to yourself. This will require critical thought and mature self-reflection.
    •Artifacts may be original work prepared especially for your ePortfolio, or they may be examples of your work from other courses in the Technology Management program.
    •Your artifacts do not have to be your most perfect work; in fact, some of the most useful artifacts to consider may be those from which you have learned the most about a theory, concept or process – precisely because you did not achieve perfection the first time round with your learning.
    •Each artifact must be accompanied by a piece of reflective writing in which you explain why are you are submitting it to your ePortfolio and what the value of the artifact, or the learning associated with the artifact, is to you.
    •Each artifact must relate, broadly or specifically, to technology management, to innovation, and/or to managerial communication.
    VALUE50% of course grade
    •The weight of each artifact within the ePortfolio will be proposed by the student and approved by Amanda.
    •Each component of the ePortfolio (artifact and its associated reflection) will be assessed on its content, its format and its language (grammar, spelling, punctuation).
    Proposal: on Sep. 30
    Mid-point presentation to class: on Oct. 28 & 30
    1:1 review with instructor: by Nov. 13
    Final submission: by Dec. 9

  • Jean Molnar

    I taught a preliminary course on Health Promotion [preliminary to Community Health in a higher year]. I had each student develop a brochure on a health and wellness issue, then write a paper indicating who the population was, the age group, etc. affected by the health issue, and how his or her brochure matched the language and literacy for that population. They were marked using a rubric that included the theme used, the level of language, the appropriateness of pictures [chosen from free online pictures] and correct sequence and appropriate information for the health issue. They were sent to online sites how to build a brochure. They had to search for site references for the specific health issues. Such health issues used were: sadness in post secondary students; weight and diet issues in school children; introducing food to children; types of safe exercise for specific age groups; the first visit with the dentist; making friends; using false finger nails; use of a backpack; preparing for marriage.
    We then held a presentation workshop whereby students and other faculty could walk around and question the students regarding their brochures. Each student at that time could also hand out any additional pieces of relevant artifacts, if they wished.

    • perryshaw

      In a totally different field (theological education) I have found something similar in having students write a theological article for a popular magazine. I find that many of the students become so philosophical that they lose the ability to connect with ordinary people, and an exercise like this pushes them to write simply and clearly. The disciplines you describe, Jean, of thinking about target audiences and appropriate level of language, pictures, etc., are excellent. Thanks.

    • mmorrison24

      Thanks, Jean. Can you please provide links to sites with instruction on how to build a brochure? Thanks

  • perryshaw

    For a course on Developmental Psychology:
    Working in teams of two find two children – one aged between 3 and 5 years of age, and one aged between 8 and 10 years of age. For each child, conduct the following experiments as seen in the video-clips in class. The process should be recorded on your own video-clip and delivered in digital form to Dr Perry (4 hours):
    oConservation of water: “Does this glass have more juice or does this glass have more juice or do they both have the same amount.”
    oIntuitive understanding of coins: “Does this row have more coins or does this row have more coins or do both have the same number.”
    oIntuitive understanding of cookies: “Is this fair?”
    oCategorization of objects.
    oEtc. …

  • Perry Shaw

    Alongside reading assignments I request students to reflect on the readings as follows:
    ?Very briefly list the main points from the reading.
    ?For you personally, what was the most important thing you read? Why was it important for you?
    ?Was there anything you found challenging in the reading? Why? Was there anything that made you uncomfortable or with which you disagreed? Why?
    ?Have you ever seen the principles discussed in the reading at work in your own life? Briefly describe what happened.
    ?In light of the reading describe at least one specific, measurable, and attainable action you could take during the next few days to act in response to what was discussed.

    • Laura S

      I like those prompts. I can see using them for an end-of-semester reflection on the entire course or just a single unit of study. Just change "read" to "unit" or "course"

  • John Bartholomew

    I am an athletic trainer and I teach Therapeutic Exercise. Each week I post an injury on Facebook. My students are responsible to post the rehabilitation for the injury. I also have several alumni who are in the group that also post the rehabilitation as well. The students must also respond to the different solutions that were posted. This assignment allows me to see how the students are implementing what we have talked about. It also lets them see the different ways to approach a problem. They also get to network too.

  • Carol Martin

    This semester in my first-year seminar, I've tried a new, in-class assignment based on current research on retrieval as a strategy for learning (as in Make It Stick, Brown/Roediger/McDaniel). Every two weeks or so, I require each student to send me, before class, three "retrieval practice" questions based on the material we've been learning; I compile them and group them by topic. Then, in-class, they quiz each other on the questions. It's simple enough, but it's also been effective in ways I hadn't foreseen: I get to work with students on asking good questions for the purpose, and I get to show students how asking information-based questions can lead to asking good investigative questions. I took the mid-term essay questions (which I'm collecting today) from their last retrieval questions . . . which surprised them. I think they're surprised as much at their own competence and demands upon themselves as they are at being given a fairly substantial say in what they're being tested on.

  • perryshaw

    An assignment I have frequently given has entailed the students finding a friend who is not in the course, and presenting key ideas from the course to that friend. The students are required to journal the meetings and discussions that ensued.I find that when students teach material to others they own the learning in a more substantial way.

  • MikaelH

    My latest idea for an assignment is to have my 200-level students design a midterm as a group work assignment. I got the idea during a seminar discussing student self-assessment and peer review and realized that anyone who designs a midterm needs to know the material really, really well. We'll see how it turns out.

    • Jean Molnar

      A little related. I had students on odd weeks hand in 2 exam questions directly related to the lecture at the end of the lecture. They placed the questions in a file folder under their last name initial. This helped me determine who was present and who was listening. I told them and followed through with using as many of the questions on the exams: midterm and final.
      For the same class, during the review class, I had them work in small groups and write up exam questions regarding specific sections of the course that I had assigned them. They wrote these on large flip sheets and hung them around the room. The students were encouraged to peruse these questions. One of the students started taking pictures with her phone and the rest followed. I told them I could not use these questions but they would be excellent starting points for studying. That class had the highest marks overall for my course in recent years.

      • Laura S

        I like this idea. I would select only the best questions to include on the exam and give extra credit points to the students who had their questions selected.

    • Misty Maynard

      I have done this before and it worked out well. I had forgotten about it but it was for an Interpersonal Communications class and I did it several semesters. You are right, it requires a lot of work and knowledge to create a good test. I think I told them they were to create three or four different kinds of questions including an essay question
      that they then answered.

  • csnyder

    Just yesterday, tired of the usual here's-your-group-and-here's-your-Poe-story-to-present in American Lit I, I gave them a list of ideas to choose from and intermingle as they choose–an opera, a musical, a comic book, a storyboard or paintings, a board game, a building, paper dolls, a children's book (not for children, though, since these are Poe stories), a coloring book–anything that uses talents they find within their group, talents that are not usually called forth in their classes. They are not to use electronics–and they seemed excited about that. My purpose, besides variety, is getting everybody–but especially the struggling readers in the class to–find a new way into the material. I did assign the groups instead of randomizing so that they got stories I think they might actually like. In a couple of weeks, I'll see what results…

  • Perry Shaw

    I hope I haven't given too much, but three further ideas:
    •Case studies written and discussed by students
    •Students are required to interview an expert in the field and do critical reflection on the interview
    •Writing a poem or a piece of music. I teach in the Middle East, and Arabic invites poetry.

    • Misty Maynard

      I require interviews in my Speech class. They go out and find someone to interview for information. I really like this assignment. It gets them out in the world pursuing knowledge that specifically interests them.

      • Laura S

        I teach classes on the world's religions. For years, I have had students going out into the world to visit and interview folks about a religion the student has not have personal experience with. But the interviews are to be focused on personal experience and perspective rather than simply seeking information about the religion. Information they can get from reading material. The personal experience and perspective of the people they interview will be unique to each individual person and will demonstrate that what they learn from reading and what is the reality in the real world are not always the same. The reality is full of complexity and exceptions to the "norm" found in the reading material. Besides, I find it rude to use a person as a walking-talking encyclopedia (a source of mere factual information).

  • R Otero

    I teach a design history class and I ask students to constantly take pictures of their surroundings in order to make personal connections to class content. One way of using these images for in-class conversation is by means of a Visual Discussion Board (VDB) using social media and hashtags (perhaps taking the discussion outside of the classroom). Halfway into the semester I introduced our class VDB using tagboard (tagboard.com) with a very simple assignment (other assignments will follow):
    Students take a walk around campus in order to identify and take pictures of design elements that have been covered in class. Using their preferred social media network (e.g. facebook, twitter, instagram) and the class hashtag referenced above, post at least one of your pictures. This picture must be a detail of a building (exterior or interior) or a piece of furniture found on our campus. They must provide a descriptive comment based on course content without revealing its location. During class time on due date, we will look at the tagboard and enjoy the conversation.

  • kwright

    I teach in an RN-BSN online program,
    Nurses teach patients things all the time, however, they may not realize how to teach effectively so that patients truly understand thus, I developed an assignment to give them the opportunity to teach so that their classmates could critique via the discussion board:
    Create a 5-8 minute YOUTUBE/video (use of other video media is acceptable as well) instructing a patient teaching session. The topic can be on teaching a patient how to give an insulin inject, discharge instructions after a knee or hip replacement, how to prevent falls in the home, whatever topic you choose to teach.

    The video must include:
    Who your target audience is including age, and cultural mix.
    You will need to take into consideration literacy level and learning styles of your target audience.

    This will provide students with the opportunity to reflect on the best teaching methodology for their particular patients and what they might have missed in their session. For example, are they showing how to inject air into the vial of medication before drawing it up, and explaining why that needs to be done? Is the patient using the correct measuring devise when taking a liquid medication?
    The students came up with some very creative teaching sessions which helped them to see what they might do better in communicating with their patients.

    • sharon hall

      Great way to prepare nurses on how to teach clients. Video is a great reflective teaching tool.

  • Angela Velez-Solic

    I love project-based assignments. Here are three that I use (these are online classes).
    1. For a business/professional writing class: They make up a business that they own where they live. They sell a product, service, or experience of some kind. Then they're going to open a branch overseas. They pick from my list of countries, but no one gets to pick the same one. Each week or unit they create something related to this venture- a memo to me, a letter to their employees describing it and asking for volunteers, a letter to a local media outlet, a brochure to their employees using persuasive techniques to encourage more volunteerism, a handbook to employees about the country (this is research-based about communication preferences, business etiquette there, living differences, etc.), and a recorded presentation for all stakeholders. It's awesome what they do and very realistic.

    2. British Literature: They become an expert on an author of the time period. Each unit they turn something in related to their author, including a life and historical timeline, biography, historical analysis of the time period and how it influenced the author's writing (or not), annotated bibliography, comparison/contrast between two written pieces, and a final presentation of all of that knowledge with a learning reflection. I give them complete creative control over how they present all of this– they can use online tools, presentation tools, a typical paper, a video or multimedia presentation, etc.

    3. Solving a problem. This can be used for almost any class, but for this one it's a freshman-level writing/reading class. They pick one problem in their local area that they would like to see fixed. It can be anything from homelessness, domestic abuse, child abuse, littering, corruption, environmental concerns, etc. Each unit they will write about different topics related to their problem, including researching 'normal' people who have changed the world in some way (big or small), a self-analysis of their own change-agent characteristics or lack thereof, research about change and what traits people have who have been successful in implementing change, creating brochures and letters to people who can help their cause, and a plan to fix the problem they chose.

    • perryshaw

      I have used a similar approach to your second suggestion, Angela, adding the requirement that the students act in first person and discuss in forums:
      "You will be asked to work cooperatively in groups of 3 to present key issues around a great doctrine of the church. For each group a forum will be held, which I will moderate, in which each member will take on the personality of one of the great thinkers of church history and give a 20–30-minute presentation on the context in which that person lived, why the issue was important to him or her and a brief outline of that person’s ideas on the doctrine. (For example, one triad may choose to present a forum on ecclesiology, with participants representing St Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine and Calvin.) During these presentations, each participant must act out the person they are presenting, even to the point of dressing in a style appropriate to the time and context in which the person lived. Consequently, the student should have a thorough mastery of the person they are presenting. In addition, the student should provide each member of the class with at least two pages of information on the life and theology of the person – in essay, note or tabular form. Following the presentations, opportunity will be given for the rest of the class to ask the participants questions, and the participants will be able to interact with one another."
      This was one of the most successful learning tasks I have ever done in a class. The students really got into it, and we all learned an enormous amount.

    • brilliantafrica

      These are great ideas!! thanks!

  • Gonzalo Munevar

    In my neuroscience and other psychology classes I give students the following two writing assignments: "The class will be divided into several research teams. Each team will demonstrate the output of its research in two writing assignments. The first will be a neuroscience entry in Wikipedia. The second will be a funding proposal for an original neuroscience experiment designed by the team.
    All members of the group get the same grade. If the team feels that a particular member is not doing his part, that student might not receive a passing grade in that project." (From the syllabus.)

    The experiment must have never been performed before, and must be doable in principle by the students. Some groups of students have secured funding from the university and performed their experiments, under my supervision, the following semester. They have then presented their results at academic conferences. Before the final draft of each assignment, the groups must give a PowerPoint presentation to the class. Groups talk to me extensively in my office, particularly about the experiment design. All students must participate in the group presentation, and explain their own contributions to the group project.

    • Laura S

      Wow, that seems like a graduate level assignment! How can anyone know if a given experiment has "never been performed before"? Seems the students would have to do a lot of research just to verify if their experiment is original.

      • Gonzalo Munevar

        Juniors and Seniors. I use textbooks that emphasize key experiments to explain the content. So the students come to the assignment with a good feel of what the experimental work in an area is like. From those references, plus suggestions, from me, they begin their literature search. Oftentimes they design an experiment inspired by their previous assignment writing a Wikipedia article, for which they have done a fair literature review already. And occasionally some come up with extremely creative ideas. At any rate, since they work in groups, they learn to divide the load.

  • SimonPeter Gomez

    I am using an online global system simulation in my Global Politics course called statecraft. Students pay for it, about the cost of a supplementary text. It allows them to take control of a country in a hypothetical global system. My class is small, so there are 2 students per country for a total of seven countries. The students make all decisions for the country including, but not limited to, type of government, military policy, economic policy, diplomacy with other countries, and response to global crises. The simulation can run all or part of the semester (mine runs for 6 weeks, or 6 game turns). This is the first time I have done it, but already it has generated much buzz within the class and increased the student-to-student interaction.

  • kbv7001

    In a few online courses on our campus, students create presentations for a virtual conference. They begin building their presentations early in the course and add more information as they experience and learn more with course concepts. In the final week of the course, students post their presentations online and the instructor creates a virtual program guide with all students' presentations. Students are required to view at least five classmates' presentations using a peer review rubric (3 presentations are assigned, 2 are freely chosen to ensure that all presentations receive a review). This has been done in Anthropology of Religions, Introduction to Biology, and Health Psychology.

  • moullineaux3

    I teach fine art and design and almost every "assigment" I use changes every semester. One of my favorite however, is one I use teaching a 3-D design course. The last assignment of the course, after having given other exercises and problems related to developing the students understanding of three dimensional form-making, involves the use of an unconventional material ususually not associated with building 3-D forms. The students are given the problem of creating a free standing structure out of 1/2 inch pvc pipe that must hold their own body weight and be aesthetically interesting to look at[ chairs and tables are not allowed]. I find that each time I use this or a variation of this exercise, students discover a new connection with their own physical presence and a new appreciation and understanding of the process of developing an abstract idea into a tangible form. In addition it allows them to think in a more linear way regarding materials.

  • adiemusfree

    I teach postgrad health professionals, and I've implemented a project where they must create a patient resource on a treatment, following health literacy guidelines, and also health ethics for informed choice. They are able to use any medium, but the product must meet common health literacy requirements. The paper is Pain Management, so it makes them think beyond the technical "how do I do the treatment" and into how and why a patient might choose this treatment, and also how they'd know it worked.
    Another paper I ask students to develop a personal learning plan on a topic of their choice, prepare a presentation to deliver to students (using any medium), present it (online – I teach distance students), grade one another and themselves (plus I grade them), then prepare a paper on the same topic.
    Finally, in another paper on pain I ask students to develop their own assessment interview/questions for their setting, based on required readings. This makes the material relevant to their area of practice, encourages them to develop something they can integrate within practice, and ultimately I hope will help change and improve the care of people with chronic pain.

  • Mich7782

    Excerpt from my syllabus:
    You will form “mini-organizations” of 4-5 students over the course of the semester to
    produce something that could introduce organizational communication to next
    semester’s class. There are a number of ways to approach the content for this project.
    For example, you might focus on providing historical background on the different
    approaches to organizational communication, or you might put more emphasis on
    individual organizational communication topics such as socialization and technology.
    Or, you might concentrate on what makes organizational communication important to
    current society (or perhaps a little of each!) Regardless of the approach you take,
    remember that the goal is to give a new student a general idea of what
    organizational communication means—which may mean making some tough choices
    on content to help you avoid information overload.
    The final format of your project can be anything you’d like (video, infographic, blog,
    app, etc.), as long as you can explain why the format is appropriate and relevant for
    your target audience.
    I realize this lack of specificity could be intimidating; however, you’ll find that in many
    organizations you’re told the goal, but not necessarily how to accomplish it. This
    experience may be frustrating at times, but will hopefully help prepare you for the
    ambiguity you’ll encounter out in the “real world”.

  • Joe

    I used a Jeopardy game as a review for our mid term exam in Principles of Marketing. The students loved it. Ask each student to write 5 questions from a particular chapter. Use one index card for each question using a Jeopardy style format as questions progress from basic to more complex. Answers should be written on a separate index card. Assign a particular chapter to the student to develop the questions. This make for excellent review. Place cards on the wall under the appropriate chapter title and in sequential order from 100 level to 500 level questions. Using your attendance roster have a student choose which question he/she would like to answer. (Obviously, cannot select their assigned question). Other students may answer if the first student needs some help or answers incorrectly. Proceed to the next student on your roster. The goal here is class review for everyone not necessarily competition. Good luck!!!

  • John Jupin

    I am a fairly new adjunct in the Criminal Justice Program and teaching on line. I too have used scavenger hunts for my class and in a group setting so they get to know each other and use peer teaching. I am definitely looking to the try the U-tube suggestion by KWright. Thanks!

  • mreneau

    I teach epidemiology online to MSN students. The vocabulary is immense, but vital for understanding the principles of the science of epidemiology. At the beginning of the course, the first assignment is a "learning matrix" whereby the students must complete the definition of each term (approximately 100 terms). This way they have a self-created study guide and reference as they continue on in the course. Discussion are application of the terms in "action" in the science of Epidemiology and related to the individual states where each student resides.

  • kmm

    At the beginning of the semester, I have students do a scavenger hunt which involves visiting 2 student services available to them. These services include the writing center, tutoring center, library, counseling, admissions, and more. The students go in groups of 3 (2 or 4 also works), and collect information at the site about the site. In addition, they take a selfie which clearly shows the site they have visited. This assignment provides them with the opportunity to get to know their classmates better in a fun and social venue and also gives them access to vital student services that are there to help them be successful in their first year college experience. At the end of the semester, in their evaluations of the course, this activity is often mentioned as a highlight.

  • Laura S

    some years ago I read a piece in the Teaching Professor about a "different kind of final" where students presented a Concept Map as a culminating project – a creative and visual way to synthesize all they had learned in the course. I have been using this idea in my Introduction to the Study of Religion where the overarching theme is to explore "What is religion?" Here are the assignment directions from my academic website: http://www.nvcc.edu/home/lshulman/Rel100/syllabus

  • brilliantafrica

    I teach an undergrad course in Global Health and am planning to use a scavenger hunt this year for the first time. The students will be given a sort of template of public health interventions and approaches, and then go out in pairs to find examples of the approaches, and to take a photo of what they find so that they can bring it back to the group. ANy thoughts would be welcome!
    Susie Foster

  • Laura S

    Another creative assignment I've had students do is to "create a game" based around a major topic of study in the course: http://www.nvcc.edu/home/lshulman/Rel231/syllabus

  • @denielsen (Twitter)

    I teach a college hybrid lit course (short stories) and for final project, students explore different elements of same story, so we end up with 20-30 different projects that integrate student interest with historical, sociological, thematic context. The final online reject includes essays, video, songs, poetry, presentations, photos, twitter feeds…whatever platform excites the student. Some have even grouped up to create plays or old fashioned "radio shows". It's interactive and engaging, but takes plenty of scaffolding. I build in workshop time so I had review and assess as we go to ensure quality in end product.

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  • ksukeduc

    I am using the notion of 20% time or Genius Hour or Passion Projects, whatever name you prefer, in my College Experience course to encourage the students to develop a shifting mindset about research, collaboration, innovation, and service. Each individual, pair, or team chose their own topic. They will research that topic. They will create a product of their choice about or with that information. Then, in addition to presenting their ideas to their classmates and me, they have to find an authentic and relevant audience to share their ideas with in an effort to increase their civic engagement.

  • Sarah Young

    For my legal aspects course for recreation, park and tourism majors, I use a group project mock court that involves students working both individually and in teams to defend or pursue a claim involving the legal issues presented in class. Students will be assigned to either the plaintiff’s or defendant’s team for which they will work to best present their side of the case to the court. Teams are responsible for gathering evidence on legal principles applicable to the case, identifying witnesses, and building a case to present to the court. Each team’s litigator is the team's contact with the course instructor. Each team member in collaboration with their group will choose a witness role, research and document their testimony, justify why their witness was called, and the legal principles, theories, and doctrines that best fit their witness testimony. Evaluation of each student’s performance in this assignment is based on the following criteria:
    1) Documentation: This written assignment pertaining to the individual role that each student assumes for their team.
    2) Peer Evaluation: Each team member completes a peer evaluation of each of their team members based upon their individual performance, contributions to the team, and attendance at meetings.
    3) Summary Exercise: After completion of all testimony and opening/closing statements of their specific case, students involved as witnesses and litigators for the case are asked to debrief by writing a summary of the issues presented, the pros and cons of the presentation, and their conclusions.
    4) Presentation: All team members are participants in the presentation (i.e., testimony in court) and each student’s participation is evaluated on style, content, credibility, and following court protocol.

    In reflective papers at the end of the semester, students consistently comment that this mock court assignment was the assignment from which they learned the most from the course.

  • Cameron Russell

    I have a pre-lecture assignment in biology that students are given a table with all of the cell parts and there are two columns next to the column of cell parts. I have a note in the far right column that they are not to write in that column. The students are supposed to describe the structure and function of each cell part from the textbook, and bring it to class. I collect the homework, and immediately grade it (using a check plus for 100% complete , check for most of it being complete, check minus for less than 50% complete, and 0 for not doing it).
    Then I hand it back to them, and give each of them a red pen. I then go over each cell part in class and ask them to put information that I give that is not on their homework. They do not get graded on this. It is a very visual example of how well they read, how well they understand what they read, and shows them what they missed in their readings.
    It is also a low stakes homework in that they are not getting graded on whether or not it was correct, but how much effort they put in to completing the homework.

  • Vasudha Joshi

    While teaching a semester course on Human Resource Management to my undergrad Commerce students, my recent assignment was they prepared a scrapbook with 10 current newspaper items – news or articles – relevant to the subject. Students had to mention the newspaper name, day and date by the side of the clipping and make its summary in 1 paragraph. I gave them nearly two and half months to complete the assignment.
    From their submissions I found that:
    a. It was very tough for them!
    b. Some of them could not distinguish between news items and advertisements.
    c. Many could not reach the number 10. Almost everybody made mistakes in the choice of clippings. They were stumped when I informed them that business rivalry, FDI, economic policies, compensation paid to accident victims or consumers who were cheated had nothing to do with our subject.
    d. Most of the students were unaware of the existence of financial papers, leave aside their obligation to read it.
    However, at least a few students have been initiated into perusing newspapers. That is my reward.

  • Paula Adams

    I am not a college lecturer, but volunteer as a teacher at my church, for persons preparing to sit a regional Caribbean exam at the secondary level. One method I use is to have pairs of students do MCQs – where they agree, they indicate their response by underlining the selection in pencil, and circling responses in two different colours of ink (one for each student) when there is disagreement. Each student would also write their name in the same ink used for his/her answer. My intention is that this stimulates discussion between students, so that they can evaluate their own position, and learn from each other. I also put students in teams, and may combine this element in paired work to make it more challenging (may not work for college level).

  • Denise

    I teach a SPEECH COMMUNICATION course that surveys interpersonal, group and public communication. One of the assignments is to compose and deliver a biographical speech on a person of choice. Before doing that speech we engage in two activities. First they create the ever trendy Elevator Speech which is the equivalent of a 20-30 second verbal resume to have to share just in case you find an opportunity to network "in an elevator" or in another informal and unplanned setting or moment. They pair share them and get a kick out of hearing what their classmates have composed. Similarly I have them write an I AM poem. The template for this exercise I found online. Again they share and learn from one another. These two autobiographical experiences create good foundational pre- speech preparation and good in class discussion.

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