Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence:Toward the Best in the Academy (2007-2008) 19(8)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 2008, Mary-Ann Winkelmes. Used by permission


We have come to take assignments for granted as a necessary part of undergraduate education, largely because they provide the basis for a student's grade. But assignments can accomplish much more. In addition to helping students learn course content, assignments can enable students to practice the most essential skills of a discipline. Further, assignments can offer an opportunity for students to become better evaluators of their own academic work.

Thoughtfully structured assignments offer teachers an opportunity to build students’ mastery of essential disciplinary skills alongside their content knowledge; to improve students’ ability to evaluate their own academic work; and even to heighten their awareness of how they learn best. Achieving these lofty goals need not absorb vast amounts of a teacher’s additional effort or time in designing and responding to students’ assignments. And once the course is over and the assignments have enabled these many pedagogical benefits, the assignments may also be used as a basis for calculating each student’s grade!