I have recently been working on designing (and redesigning) assignments for EOSC 516: Teaching and Learning in Earth and Ocean Sciences. As part of my research for the STLHE and PATH posters, I read through the summative feedback from each year EOSC 516 was offered, and found myself with new ideas on how to improve course structure. One of these ideas was to restructure the assignment component of the course.
We had received comments that one large project due at the very end of the semester is inconvenient timing. I had also observed in the year I was enrolled in EOSC 516, and during the semester I was TA, that students tended to tackle the assignment the night before.
To encourage reflection, I suggested we introduce 3 smaller assignments. This way, students would have to consider course themes throughout the semester, and a much smaller assignment would coincide with final exams. The idea resulted in a cut down version of the large Lab Redesign assignment from previous years, an assignment written by the Instructor titled Interview A Novice, and a Teaching Philosophy Assignment, which I recently wrote.
Designing this assignment has been a new challenge for me. I was very conscious of my wording and clarity. I also found myself flip-flopping on how much direction to give students; as our course is pass/fail and students are given written feedback (no mark), I ultimately decided to allow quite a bit of freedom.