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What is Learning assignment/task

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What to consider when using assignments as an assessment method for a course.

An assignment is a piece of (academic) work or task. It provides opportunity for students to learn, practice and demonstrate they have achieved the learning goals. It provides the evidence for the teacher that the students have achieved the goals. The output can be judged using sensory perception (observing, reading, tasting etc.). The assignment can focus on a product as output (e.g. research report, design, prototype, etc.) and/or a process (e.g. research process, group process) and/or the performance of individual skills or competences (e.g. professional skills, communications skills).

what is learning assignment

When assessing with assignments, we should pay attention to:  >>  validity : we really test what we want to test; the assignment and the way we assess the results are aligned with the learning goals. >> reliability : based on the results, we make a right, just, fair, objective distinction between pass/fail or provide the just grade. Our scoring or grading is done in a consistent way and the  judgments or the grades are meaningful. >> transparency : it clear upfront for the students what they will learn, what they have to do (as evidence; what to deliver or show), how they will be assessed and what to expect during the process. >> the assignment and the feedback provided will support the learning process .  

With the toolbox below, related to the questions and issues mentioned above, we hope to offer you useful tips and guidelines for designing and assessing assignments.

assignment cloud

  • Top 10 tips on designing assessment tasks with particular focuses on learning outcomes, and assessment criteria. Resource: Learnhigher .   Resource picture: Nick Youngson - link to - http://nyphotographic.com/

what is learning assignment

  • Assessment Criteria . About: characteristics; threshold or marking criteria; hidden criteria.(University of Kent) 
  • Know what it is that you are assessing: writing assessment criteria . Things to remember when writing assessment criteria and an example format.(University of Reading) 

what is learning assignment

Useful resources to learn more about rubrics, to find templates or examples:

  • What are rubrics and why are they important?  Explanation about the purpose of rubrics and about different types of rubrics. (ASCD, by Susan M. Brookhart)  
  • Introduction to Rubrics . By Danielle Stevens and Antonia Levi from Portland State University. Including templates and examples.
  • Grading and Performance Rubrics . Explanation and some very nice examples. Eberly Center.
  • More Examples of Rubrics and Other Resources . Examples for specific purposes, like class participation, team work, multidisciplinary work, research papers and more. DePaul university Teaching Commons.    

The disadvantage of assignments is, most of the time, that scoring and grading will take a lot of time. Especially if you want to give the students detailed feedback. The resources below may give you some (new) ideas and tips to assess and provide feedback in an efficient as well as an effective way.      

  • Clare Furneaux of the University of Reading (UK) offers her tip for assessing large numbers of students and at the same time provide elaborate feedback. Short video . 
  • Stimulate success.  Tips on providing ‘Feed Forward’ guidance  (tips from the University of Reading, UK).  
  • Grading Student Papers: Reducing Faculty Workload While Improving Feedback to Students . An article by Kathy Pezdek with tips (e.g. using a coding system).  
  • If you are working at the University of Twente and would like some support or just discuss your ideas or plans, please turn to the Technology Enhanced Learning & Teaching group .  
  • The Centre for Teaching Excellence of the University of Waterloo developed a usefull webpage about fast and equitable grading. 

what is learning assignment

  • Helping Students to Reflect on their Group Work .  With useful instruments and tips.(UNSW)  
  • Methods for Assessing Group Work . A very  worthwhile site about ways to assess group work. With advantages and disadvantages for different methods and formula to provide scores/grades. (University of Waterloo; Centre for Teaching Excellence)   
  • Group Work and Group Assessment . Handbook / guidelines and some useful instruments. (Centre for Academic Development; Victoria University of Wellington) 

Academic integrity is important and most students will agree and act accordingly. But nevertheless fraud occurs occasionally and as an examiner you are expected to detect fraud, whether it is real cheating, like delivering work someone else made, or plagiarism or free-riding. But how can you detect it? And what to do next? In case of plagiarism or free-riding, it might not always happen with the wrong intentions or circumstances may have influenced what happened. Better to look for ways to prevent it, but what can be done? Below you will find some useful resources dealing with these issues.   NB. Specific rules and regulations may apply for your educational programme. For the University of Twente you have to check the Educational Examination Rules (EER) for your own educational programme and the  Rules & Regulations of the Examination Board for your programme or faculty. Be aware that you have to report fraud to the Examination Board!

  • Top10 tips on deterring plagiarism . (LearnHigher site).This resource includes tips on how to prevent and eradicate the appeal for plagiarism. Ideas for task and assessment design are suggested, with a particular focus on the research process.
  • Reduce the risk of plagiarism in just 30 minutes!   Leaflet with tips. (ASKe; Oxford Brookes University)   
  • A short note with 10 tips to prevent freeriding . 

what is learning assignment

This exercise is especially developed for the course Testing & Assessment. This course is offered by the Centre of Expertise in Learning and Teaching (CELT), University of Twente. The course is part of the UTQ (BKO) and UEQ (BKE) trajectory. Copyright  CELT-UT / Expertise team T&A.  The material may be used by other parties provided that reference is made. If you would like us to give a workshop on this subject, either in English or Dutch, face-to-face or online, please contact us: [email protected] 

Learning Activities and Assignments: How to Maximize Their Effectiveness

Clearly communicate to students your goals for any assignment or learning activity . Don't assume that students will know what the pedagogical purpose of the assignment is. Have a discussion about your goals and desired learning outcomes, and help students understand how specific aspects of the assignment fit these goals. Be open to making some changes if students have ideas to offer. After the discussion has taken place, summarize it and post it in the learning management system for students to revisit as they work on their assignments. 

Inform your students of assignments as early as possible  in a semester, and help them schedule and plan for them.

Give your students examples of "typical" exemplary assignments from past students, but also of submissions that were both exemplary and unique , so that students can see what you are looking for, but also so that they realize a range of possibilities.

Scaffold smaller activities and assignments towards large assignments so that students understand the trajectory of their work.  This helps students build on their growing knowledge, but also helps them move forward: it's easier for them to continue a learning process than to start a new one. It also combats procrastination and plagiarism, and encourages time on task.

Consider creating flexible intermediate deadlines.  That is, provide deadlines for when particular stages or parts of the assignment should be completed, so that students can understand the ideal pace of their work flow.

If possible, allow students to share draft work with you and with their peers.  They can then use your feedback, and their peer's feedback, to revise and improve their work. 

Offer students performative options.  In other words, allow students to demonstrate their understanding or skill acquisition in alternative or diverse ways. For example, rather than a traditional essay, could a student create a podcast or screencast? Instead of submitting a written assignment, could a student do an in-class poster presentation? 

Meet with students one-on-one as much as possible  to assist with every step in the process, from clarifying the assignment, to brainstorming, to polishing.

Help your students appreciate the importance of formative feedback . Many students are interested only in the grade that an assignment receives (the summative assessment), and will spend little time on the formative feedback that you also provide on their assignments. Help them understand that carefully reviewing the formative feedback will improve their performance in the future. 

Discuss your own working process : the ideal scene for your work, the personal supports you have or try to create, your own blocks and difficulties. Students can benefit from seeing how their instructors work. At the same time, recognize that there are many different learning styles, and that most students won't work the same way that their teachers do, and that this is a good thing.

Use the learning management system to support students as they work on their assignments.  For example, create on online discussion forum where students can ask questions about their assignments, or where they can post drafts of their work in order to receive feedback from peers. 

Be sensitive to cultural differences  that might impact student learning processes and the "products" they create.

Ask students to help you revise assignment prompts for the next time you teach the class , and/or to write down some advice they would give to future students for succeeding at an assignment.

Consider having your program, department, or faculty implement an ePortfolio program for students . Students can use the ePortfolio to archive drafts of their assignments, to reflect on specific assignments or their overall progress, to showcase their best assignments, and more. 

Consider providing verbal feedback on student assignments using new technologies.  For example, the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat makes it easy to add audio comments to specific parts of a document. Narrating your comments might be easier than typing them, and you can also be more nuanced with verbal comments than with written comments. 

Make large-print copies of all materials available.  These are beneficial not only for visually impaired students who are registered with  AccessAibility Services , but for any student who is experiencing some degree of vision impairment. 

If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the  CTE Support  page to find the most relevant staff member to contact. 

teaching tips

This Creative Commons license  lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format:  Learning Activities and Assignments: How to Maximize Their Effectiveness. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo .

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Teaching tip categories.

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Learning assignments - Learner Experience

What is the messaging and experience of assigned learning for learners? When a learning activity is assigned - whether by administrative assignments, team managers, or the legacy batch upload process - the learner will experience the following:

When a learner is assigned learning, all assignments are added to the learner’s Your learning assignment queue. The first indicator for most learners will be the assignment notification banner on the home page. Here are the options:

  • If there are no learning assignments, the banner will not display.
  • If only learning assignments - the banner will have a red outline exclamation point icon and number of assignments.
  • If any combination of assignments which includes at least 1 required learning assignment, a solid red exclamation point icon displays followed by number of required learning assignments.
  • If there are past due required learning assignments, it will have a solid red exclamation point icon followed by the number of required learning assignments and the number of past due assignments. Remember in this case, past due only applies to required learning assignments.

Learning assignments home page notification

To see the details of the assignments, the Your learning assignment queue can be is accessed on any page from the Learning menu, or on the home page by clicking the assignment banner link or scroll down to click the Your Learning Assignments tile.

Your learning assignment queue

Learning assignment initial email notification

Required learning first email notification

Required learning assignment reminder emails

Email notification 7 days prior to due date is the same as the initial email notification except the subject line which states Due next week . Email notification of past due required learning assignments will state Past due with the due date in the email subject line. Email message includes past due reminder statement, assigned by, activity name, activity type, activity duration, due date, button link to activity page, reason for assignment, and contact name with email link.

Required learning assignments reminder email notifications


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