Designing Meaningful Writing Assignments

This resource on designing meaningful writing assignments was was written and compiled by Mandy Olejnik, Ph.D., Assistant Director of Howe Writing Across the Curriculum at Miami University (Ohio).

Introduction to Designing Meaningful Writing Assignments

Writing is a useful tool for learning that can be utilized in your classroom, regardless of which subject you teach (or at which level). “Writing” can be broadly understood as anything that communicates meaning, including not only extended formal prose but all communication including charts, graphs, slides, and presentations. In this way, writing might present itself different across disciplines and contexts, but all disciplines write, and can design meaningful writing assignments to promote deep learning in the classroom.

In this resource, you can find researched-based strategies for designing meaningful writing assignments in your courses that promote deep learning.

High-Stakes vs. Low-Stakes (or No-Stakes) Writing Assignments

Writing in your classroom can be either high-stakes (usually longer and worth a substantial amount of points) or low-stakes (usually shorter and worth minimal points). Additionally, writing assignments can even be no-stakes and serve as an ungraded warm-up or reflective activity in class.

There are various reasons why you may wish to implement writing assignments of varying stakes into your classroom. Low-stakes writing is notably vital for students’ learning, as they can worry less about their grades and more on writing out their thoughts. For example, a low-stakes assignment might be for students to summarize an article read for class into a compact tweet that any lay-person could read or understand. The emphasis here is audience awareness of the assignment, even as it’s presented as something fun and much less intimidating than a formal report. Ultimately, not every writing assignment has to be high-stakes (like a more formal report laying out research findings on market analysis). When used in a low or even no-stakes manner, writing can be used as a generative means of learning that reinforces course concepts.

For more ideas about how to incorporate writing to learn activities into your classroom, check out the “What Is Writing to Learn?” page on the WAC Clearinghouse.

Strategies Toward Creating Meaningful (Higher-Stakes) Writing Assignments

Strategies Toward Creating Meaningful (Lower-Stakes) Writing Assignments

Further Reading

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