Relate your assignments to your course learning goals and objectives. For each assignment, know what you expect beforehand in terms of content, structure, level of work, length. Base your evaluation criteria on these expected outcomes.
Clearly communicate these expectations to your students through detailed assignment guidelines, evaluation criteria, and grading rubrics.
Ask a colleague to review your assignment for clarity.
Create opportunities for student feedback before the final submission for major assignments. This requires that students start early, allows you to clarify expectations, and can result in better outcomes. Possible strategies include:
- reading outlines, drafts, and/or annotated bibliographies
- requiring peer reviews
- having a designated place in Blackboard (or other electronic platform) for posting questions and answers
- showing them examples from previous students on the assignment (choose successful examples and be sure to get permission to use them)
Modify your expectations if they turn out to be highly unrealistic. If an assignment proves to be too tough for the class, go over aspects of it and allow students to revise it for a new grade.
Ask students to turn in a self-assessment using the evaluation criteria and/or grading rubric.
Keep a record of what you liked about the assignment and what you would do differently the next time to improve students' learning outcomes. You can also ask students for feedback on the assignment as part of your final course evaluation.
Remember that designing effective assignments is an iterative process that requires reflection and a willingness to experiment with new ideas.