Creating Your Assignment Sheets
In order to help our students best engage with the writing tasks we assign them, we need as a program to scaffold the assignments with not only effectively designed activities, but equally effectively designed assignment sheets that clearly explain the learning objectives, purpose, and logistics for the assignment.
Checklist for Assignment Sheet Design
As a program, instructors should compose assignment sheets that contain the following elements.
A clear description of the assignment and its purpose. How does this assignment contribute to their development as writers in this class, and perhaps beyond? What is the genre of the assignment? (e.g., some students will be familiar with rhetorical analysis, some will not).
Learning objectives for the assignment. The learning objectives for each assignment are available on the TeachingWriting website. While you might include others objectives, or tweak the language of these a bit to fit with how you teach rhetoric, these objectives should appear in some form on the assignment sheet and should be echoed in your rubric.
Due dates or timeline, including dates for drafts. This should include specific times and procedures for turning in drafts. You should also indicate dates for process assignments and peer review if they are different from the main assignment due dates.
Details about format (including word count, documentation form). This might also be a good place to remind them of any technical specifications (even if you noted them on the syllabus).
Discussion of steps of the process. These might be “suggested” to avoid the implication that there is one best way to achieve a rhetorical analysis.
Evaluation criteria / grading rubric that is in alignment with learning objectives. While the general PWR evaluation criteria is a good starting place, it is best to customize your rubric to the specific purposes of your assignment, ideally incorporating some of the language from the learning goals. In keeping with PWR’s elevation of rhetoric over rules, it’s generally best to avoid rubrics that assign specific numbers of points to specific features of the text since that suggests a fairly narrow range of good choices for students’ rhetorical goals. (This is not to say that points shouldn’t be used: it’s just more in the spirit of PWR’s rhetorical commitments to use them holistically.)
Canvas Versions of Assignment Sheets
Canvas offers an "assignment" function you can use to share assignment sheet information with students. It provides you with the opportunity to upload a rubric in conjunction with assignment details; to create an upload space for student work (so they can upload assignments directly to Canvas); to link the assignment submissions to Speedgrader, Canvas's internal grading platform; and to sync your assigned grades with the gradebook. While these are very helpful features, don't hesitate to reach out to the Canvas Help team or our ATS for support when you set them up for the first time. In addition, you should always provide students with access to a separate PDF assignment sheet. Don't just embed the information in the Canvas assignment field; if students have trouble accessing Canvas for any reason (Canvas outage; tech issues), they won't be able to access that information.
In addition, you might creating video mini-overviews or "talk-throughs" of your assignments. These should serve as supplements to the assignment sheets, not as a replacement for them.
Sample Assignment Sheets
Check out some examples of Stanford instructors' assignment sheets via the links below. Note that these links will route you to our Canvas PWR Program Materials site, so you must have access to the Canvas page in order to view these files: