Piloting Assignment Design Workshops

Hi there! My name is Kelsey Kirland and I am the Assistant Director of Assessment at ODU.

With inspiration from NILOA and training from a SCHEV sponsored workshop, we decided to try out an assignment design workshop on our campus. This post shares some tips and lessons learned about our experience in hopes that assignment design efforts continue to grow.

Assignment design is a collaborative process that faculty engage in for the purposes of strengthening and improving new or existing assignments based on rapid peer feedback. Here are the benefits to faculty (1) a chance to refine an assignment you’re working on, (2) get ideas from your peers that you can take back to your classes, (3) get interdisciplinary feedback from colleagues across campus, and (4) contribute to the work of others.

We also highlighted some awesome (potential) outcomes of the workshop

  • Reduce time answering questions from students on assignments
  • Decrease time spent grading and giving feedback on assignments
  • Increase the number of high quality assignments turned in each semester
  • Help students make exciting connections in class

Rad Resources

We leveraged the materials provided on NILOA’s website to host our workshop. Here is a copy of our resources to see how we contextualized assignment design on our campus (… and we didn’t call it “assignment design”).

Hot Tips

To host this workshop, we partnered with ODU’s new Center for Faculty Development as well as the Director for Improving Disciplinary Writing. This workshop is a great opportunity to partner with other centers on your campus. Take advantage of this collaborative opportunity!

Lessons Learned

First, we opted for the no homework option because this was our first assignment design workshop. We wanted faculty to be able to show up and get feedback on their assignments without too much extra work. This went well and many faculty participated.

Second, we offered to print copies of faculty assignments (you could need up to 5 copies depending on group size). I think 80% of the participants appreciated this offer and sent their materials to us for printing. This meant all they had to do the day of the workshop was show up.

And lastly, be prepared for “walk ins”. Some faculty just came to the workshop without registering or without a copy of their assignment. We prepared for this by bringing a worksheet of sorts with questions from the reflective memo and asking faculty to complete this. Faculty used this as a guide during their time to present. This worked well. We wanted them to be included in the day, even if their feedback wasn’t as rich as it could have been with their assignment.

What’s next?

Faculty found the workshop to be a valuable experience. They received helpful feedback from their peers that prompted improvements to their assignments. Now we are thinking about targeting our assignment design efforts to focus on faculty teaching General Education courses or upper division writing courses.

More to come!


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