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Today's students learn best by doing rather than sitting passively. Maria is back with some ideas for creating interesting assignments that will motivate, challenge and engage your students.
Hello. This is Dr. Maria Yon in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Welcome to Teaching and Learning Matters. The purpose of this episode is to give you some ideas for creating interesting assignments that will motivate and engage your students and improve their performance. Good assignments also help develop self-confidence in students.
The first step in course planning is to start with a list of course goals and objectives. Clear goals and objectives are critical because all other aspects of the course are derived from this list, not the least of which is the assignments. As you identify goals and objectives for your syllabus, you are probably automatically thinking about class activities and assignments for students.
So here are a few ideas that you might find useful. Give a brief assignment early in the semester that builds on knowledge and skills acquired in previous courses—something they can master easily to increase self-confidence and provide a relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere for the course.
Frequent short assignments throughout the semester give students a chance to demonstrate what they know or highlight what they need to work on. It might be as simple as posing a question based on a reading that develops analytical skills and communication skills.
We’re aware that students have different learning styles. One idea is to give students assignments that consist of three or four options for meeting the same learning objective. For example, students might write or perform a dramatic presentation, create a visual presentation, or work in a group to create a performance or a product. It may be a little more work on your part, but when students have some choice in the manner that they show you what they have learned, the results can be spectacular.
Students like to hear what their peers have to say. How about setting up a situation that is student-led? Students select the topic and the date of the presentation. They meet outside of class to select the format they wish for their presentation. It might be a debate, a skit or simply lead a discussion.
They should also be required to be knowledgeable enough to answer questions from you or their classmates. This is good leadership training and increases communication skills, both of which are required in the workplaces for which we’re preparing them.
I highly recommend the use of case studies and simulations. Today’s students seek authenticity and relevance. Give students a real world problem to solve, maybe ones that you or your colleagues have encountered. The purpose is to give them the experience of solving the type of practical problems they will encounter as professionals. And it gives them the chance to measure their problem-solving skills against others, including you, an expert in the field.
These are just a few ideas. But the last thing I want to add is that these ideas can be adapted for either face-to-face classes, on-line learning, or a blended environment.
So, try a few of these. Create your own. If they don’t work well the first time, try them again with another class making any necessary adjustments.
Today’s students learn best by doing rather than sitting passively and they like to be challenged if it’s interesting. So, give them a chance to do powerful assignments that challenge and interest them. Good luck with your planning of interesting assignments.
Thanks for tuning in. And remember—Teaching and Learning Matters.
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