There are many creative ways in which teachers can design assignments to support student success. We can do this while simultaneously not getting bogged down with the various obstructions that keep students from both completing and learning from the assignments. For me, assignments fall into two categories: those that are graded automatically, such as SmartBook® readings and quizzes in Connect®; and those that I need to grade by hand, such as writing assignments.
For those of us teaching large, introductory classes, most of our assignments are graded automatically, which is great for our time management. But our students will ultimately deliver a plethora of colorful excuses as to why they were not completed and why extensions are warranted. How do we give them a little leeway to make the semester run more smoothly, so there are fewer worries about a reading that was missed or a quiz that went by too quickly? Here are a few tactics I use.
Automatically graded assignments:
Multiple assignment attempts
- This eases the mental pressure of a timed assignment and covers computer mishaps or human error on the first attempt.
- You can deduct points for every attempt taken if you are worried about students taking advantage.
Automatically dropped assignments
- Within a subset or set of assignments, automatically drop a few from grading. This can take care of all excuses for missing an assignment.
- Additionally, you can give a little grade boost to those who complete all their assignments (over a certain grade).
- Consider staggering due dates during the week instead of making them all due on Sunday night.
- Set the due date for readings the night before you cover the material, so students are prepared.
- If we want our students to read, then make a reading assignment a requirement of a quiz.
The tactics above might be applied to written assignments, too. An easy way to bolster a student’s interest and investment in these longer assignments is to give them a choice. This could be in the topic, location of study, or presentation style. For example, if you want them to analyze the susceptibility of a beach to hurricane threat, why not let them choose the location? In this way, you will also be gaining a lot of new information for your own use.
With a small amount of effort, we can design our classes, so students concentrate on learning the subject matter rather than the logistics of completing the assignments.