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Assignments Matter
September 13, 2012 | Volume 7 | Issue 25
Table of Contents 

Creating Quality Classroom Assignments

Susan M. Brookhart

Creating classroom assignments that contain clear targets for students is the starting point for both good formative assessment and good instruction. These assignments must be aligned with state standards and curricular goals and must create a learning destination that students can see clearly and plan for.

Good assignments are carefully matched with both the content and the cognitive processes required for learning targets. Content to be learned may include facts, concepts, procedures, or thinking strategies. Cognitive processes required may involve recall, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, or original creation. If the learning target specifies that a student will be able to use information (e.g., not only understand a weather concept but also use it to predict the weather), then the assignment must call for that.

Good assignments are clearly constructed and have clear directions for students. Good assignments communicate. The student should be able to answer the question: "What am I supposed to do?"

Good assignments tell students the basis on which their work will be evaluated—that is, good assignments share the criteria for quality work. This helps students understand what they are aiming for, and it enables student self-evaluation along the way.

Creating Quality Classroom Assignments is a checklist-style planning tool that will help you apply the qualities of good assignments as you create or select classroom assignments.



Fig. 1: Creating Quality Classroom Assignments

Assignment: ___________________________________________________________________

Learning target (objective): _______________________________________________________


Qualities of Good Classroom Assignments


Yes or No


If yes, give evidence.

If no, how will you revise?

Content match with learning target

Does the assignment require the student to use the content specified by the learning target?

Yes ______ No ______


Cognitive process match with learning target

Does the assignment require the student to use the cognitive processes specified by the learning target?

Yes ______ No ______


Clear to students

Would the student know what to do for all aspects of the assignment?

Yes ______ No ______


Criteria for evaluation

Are the criteria for evaluating the assignment given, and are they clear?

Yes ______ No ______


Source: From Formative Assessment Strategies for Every Classroom, 2nd Ed. (p. 27–31), by S. M. Brookhart, 2010, Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Copyright 2010 by ASCD. Reprinted with permission.

Susan M. Brookhart is an independent education consultant based in Helena, Mont., and a senior research associate in the Center for Advancing the Study of Teaching and Learning at Duquesne University. Her latest ASCD book is Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson.


ASCD Express, Vol. 7, No. 25. Copyright 2012 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit


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