An assignment can be any learning activity that can be evaluated in some way. Backward design is a framework that centers course learning goals in the design of the assignment. This means any task or set of tasks that you are asking students to undertake is designed to practice and meet those goals. Students must produce an artifact that demonstrates that they have achieved those learning goals in order to be graded in the class. Knowing how you will evaluate and assess those artifacts is essential. Assessment is not just an arbitrary grade but an intentional set of choices about the strategy you will use to determine if and how students have engaged the learning goals.
Ideally, the assignment you are asking students to do offers them an opportunity to practice and meet those learning goals. There are so many different types of assignments that are available to you. Choosing the right fit should be based on your learning goals, the constraints and resources available to your class, and your assessment.
Check out the TLC handbook for assignment ideas but here are a few sample ones you may consider as you chart out your semester:
- Digital scavenger hunt
- A social media campaign
- A Literature review
- A portrait of a historical figure using multimedia
- An ethnographic journal
- A photo-essay
Check out the workshops on approaches to Ed Tech and Digital Tools for Teaching, as well as the getting started with OER for more information and resources on using digital tools in the classroom. These tools and platforms will shape and ground the assignment. There is so much variation across campuses, disciplines, programs and courses so it is important to adopt and adapt these assignments to your specific learning goals and the resources available to you. For example, you can coordinate with your college librarian for an information literacy session, virtual tour or digital resources to support a research activity. You can also ask students to revise and respond to your feedback using the writing center for support. There are many digital, open teaching and digital humanities groups and initiatives throughout CUNY that can provide further guidance with assignments and projects that use digital tools in the classroom.
Consider issues of access and accessibility as you design your assignment. What might be some barriers to participation for your students? What types of accommodations are available through the college. You can reach out to disability services to find out more and provide information on your syllabus about accessibility and accommodations. You can also check out Universal Design for learning. This design framework for learning centers the practice of accessibility at all levels of education. There are many practical guidelines as well as important discussions about disability and accessibility that would greatly benefit your assignment and course design over time.
An assignment will go through iterations over semesters as you try it out with different students, classes and contexts. So be forgiving with yourself as you design and redesign learning activities.