Assignment guidelines

Based on research into best practices for teaching communication courses, we have developed these guidelines for the course design and instruction of ARTS 130 and ARTS 140.

  1. Assignments should align with, or follow-through on, the learning outcomes for each course. The sample assignments demonstrate how this might work. One assignment can certainly align with more than one learning outcome, and the six learning outcomes can be met through a mix of assignments and classroom practices over the course of the term.
  1. In general, each student should produce about 12-15 pages of polished writing (usually made up of 2-3 assignments) and should engage in about 4-6 minutes of extemporaneous speaking (meaning practiced and prepared but not read or memorized) over the course of the term in each section of ARTS 130 and 140.
  1. As much as possible, assignments should be scaffolded, connected, or linked to one another. No single assignment or component should be so high-stakes that it comprises a significant portion of the course grade. To scaffold, assignments can build on one another so that completing one assignment helps prepare a student to complete another. This can mean turning smaller assignments into component parts or phases of a larger assignment; building and layering student facility with communication processes such as brainstorming, researching, drafting, and revising; and building from simpler to higher order skills and communication tasks. Scaffolding can also help students with self-regulation, including setting and adjusting deadlines.
  1. Students should practice informal writing and speaking in class that would prepare them for more formal assignments.
  1. Assignments and work in class should create opportunities for feedback, revision, or reflection whenever possible. Instructors can also guide students in giving and receiving useful formative feedback through peer collaboration.
  1. Problem-based assignments that foreground questions and student engagement are preferable to exams. Normally, instructors will not use traditional exams as modes of evaluation, instead setting assignments that challenge students to think critically and to explore ideas through writing and speaking.
  1. At least one assignment in each section of ARTS 130 and 140 ought to ask students to collaborate with one another in order to solve problems together, to learn from one another, and to build together a learning community.

Instructors should be explicit about what language use is expected in assignments. Student writers can learn to shift between a variety of modes of communication in order to be rhetorically effective. Best assessment practices take into account the fact that rhetorical purpose and effectiveness for readers and listeners is a more suitable gauge of communication success than grammatical or stylistic correctness.