Assignment Design Workshop

Massachusetts has been working on developing a statewide system of student learning assessment early in 2010. Since then, the state has built a community of practice focused on student assessment and student learning, which includes the full range of Massachusetts higher education institutions—from the community colleges to the state universities to the various University of Massachusetts campuses.

The purpose of the 2013 pilot study was to test a model for statewide assessment by collecting student artifacts (actual student work products) and assessing them using common assessment tools—the VALUE rubrics. The three learning outcomes identified for assessment in this pilot study were Critical Thinking, Quantitative Literacy, and Written Communication.

On November 9, 2015, a regional assignment design workshop was conducted at Bristol Community College. Why does assignment design matter?

  • It is good for students’ learning: It promotes intentional learning and provides students the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of essential learning outcomes.
  • It encourages a community of practice for student success through faculty engagement opportunities. It helps you shift your thinking from “my course” to “our curriculum.”
  • It strengthens programmatic, curricular, and institutional efforts on student achievement.
  • It highlights the critical connection between valuable assessment practices and intentional design practices.

The workshop began with an activity in which participants examined three assignments and, using the three assignment evaluation matrices below, mapped them to VALUE rubrics: one assignment for Written Communication, one for Quantitative Reasoning, and another for Critical Thinking.

After that walk-though activity, participants worked with partners, sharing assignments they give in their own classes, mapping the assignments to appropriate VALUE rubric, and then discussing their progress and the problems they encountered.

Participants were also given The Lumina Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP): Implications for Assessment (2013) by Peter T. Ewell, published by National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. The DQP is intended to challenge faculty and academic leaders to think deeply and concretely about aligning expectations for student learning outcomes. The DQP has generated considerable discussion about what the post-secondary degrees really mean with respect to what graduates know and can do.

Degree Qualifications Profile Resource Kit: This page offers information and resources for institutions interested in working with the DQP and Tuning.

For more on assignment design, see Catalyzing Assignment Design Activity on Your Campus: Lessons from NILOA’s Assignment Library Initiative (2014) by Pat Hutchings, Natasha A. Jankowski, and Peter T. Ewell. published by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.


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