In several of my classes I have students complete projects of some kind. My WIC class requires a research paper and other faculty in my program have students write large research papers as well, so I try to spice up my “project” options whenever I can. I have found that students are more invested in their final product when they are allowed some choice and creative license around what that final product looks like.

In my aging class, I assigned a final project where groups of students were asked to demonstrate their knowledge about how to work with older adults with various physical limitations. I gave them several prompts indicating what their final project must contain (exercise instruction with and without modification, progression, special considerations for the particular limitation, etc.) but allowed them to demonstrate that knowledge in a paper, Powerpoint presentation, video, podcast, or in any other format that I approved ahead of time. Much to my surprise, most groups created exercise videos complete with makeup, costuming, and even some guest appearances by older adults, that not only met all of the requirements of the assignment, but were wildly entertaining and, not surprising, took WAY more time to complete than a group paper would have taken. The funny thing is that they were completely invested in the assignment and didn’t seem to mind the time drain.

In my summer elective class, “Power Eating,” (you want to take that class, right?) one of their “hybrid day” assignments had students choose a recipe from the back of their textbook, then shop for, cook, consume, review, and analyze the nutritional content of their meal. They then posted their assignment to Canvas as a Discussion so students could comment on their creations. Some students took this one to a whole new level with time lapse video of their preparation and a video blog style review of the meal and its nutritional content. Admittedly, that approach took time and effort BUT the students who chose this route got to infuse the assignment with their creativity. In addition, it made the assignment more accessible to students who struggled with writing, which was not an objective of the assignment anyway.

My point is that students can demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways, and when we give them some latitude in how they convey what they have learned, we may find that students are more invested in that learning. We assess our students in the cognitive domain often to the exclusion of the psychomotor and affective domains, which are much more easily utilized when we push our assignments outside the box. Challenge yourself to re-think your assessments. Can you allow students to use their physical, technological, artistic, theatrical, musical, or other performance-related skills to meet your learning outcomes?

What kinds of assignments have you successfully used in the past that increased students’ agency over their learning, or how could you modify an existing assessment to incorporate the psychomotor and/or affective domains?

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2 thoughts on “It’s Time For An Assignment Check-Up

  1. When I did my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, one of my classmates was struggling with remembering all the muscles of the hand, wrist, and forearm….so he wrote a song about it, and aced the anatomy exam.

    And here is an excellent example of how introductory biology can be creatively learned and explored:

    While I’m still getting comfortable with how to assign and grade these kinds of assignments, what I find is that the creativity required for these projects makes the material more “sticky”….AND usually pretty fun to grade!

  2. Pretty awesome experiences. In our CS courses, students complete a lot of project-based work to demonstrate their learning. We try to pick projects that can harness their energy toward creative output… but we often fall flat. This post is inspiring!


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