How to Adopt Gen Ed Writes in Your Course

If you’re a teacher, adopting Gen Ed Writes into your course can be as straightforward as jumping to the Decoders+ section of the site with an assignment prompt and spending a few minutes thinking about whether the prompt clearly explains that assignment’s “purpose.” If you aren’t sure what exactly “purpose” means in this context or aren’t sure why it matters or what it might look like in a prompt, you might head to the page on “purpose” and look around. If you’re a student, you might follow the same steps—or just start at the home page “For Students” and explore the strategies for engaging with writing assignments (lower down on the page).

We’re inviting Gen Ed faculty at Harvard and Harvard students taking Gen Ed courses to collaborate with us on directions in which the site might evolve. See below for details.

Workshops for Teaching Teams

The season of final essays and capstone projects has arrived, and there’s still time to double-check and adapt your teaching team's approach to laying out, scaffolding, and giving feedback on your students' work. We encourage all faculty in Gen Ed to reach out to Jonah Johnson to discuss any aspect of writing- or project-based assignments in your course, including:

  • Making sure the prompt is clearly framing your assignment for students
  • Planning how to present assignments in lecture and/or section
  • Creating and using rubrics
  • Sequencing smaller assignments and section meetings that will build up to the "big assignment"
  • Discussing strategies for effective grading across sections

For courses that meet with us in the coming weeks, we’re happy to announce that we can offer follow-up workshops on feedback norming and grading at the end of the term, including space for your team to gather together and work, support from our team, and food.

Course Development Funds for Faculty

Faculty who commit to incorporating resources and approaches from Gen Ed Writes into their FALL 2023 courses may receive up to $500 of summer funding toward course development. The Bok Center is able to fund up to ten recipients.

For more information, please contact Jonah Johnson.

Explore the role you're in

Start by going to the section of the site with which you most identify most with (student, TF, or course head) and move through the menu on the left-hand side of the page. There's no "right" path through any of the sections—it's more like choosing from which point on a circle (kinds of assignments to elements of assignments to giving/getting feedback on assignments) you want to start.

A note on the layout of Gen Ed Writes: Each section has roughly the same structure, the differences being more about whether you're designing an assignment vs. teaching with it vs. doing it. These categories aren't mutually exclusive, of course, and they're not always static over the course of a given class. With that in mind, if you're a TF or TA, you might start with the overview at "Unpacking the Elements of Writing Prompts" in your section, and then head to the "Unpacking" overview in the course head and student sections.

Ideally, the structural parallelism across sections allows users to explore the life cycle of writing assignments along two different axes: Either chronologically from start to finish (from designing to teaching with, from handing out to giving feedback on, from starting to submitting and getting feedback on) or comparatively at a given moment or with respect to a specific feature (e.g., what the role of feedback looks like from the perspective of a TF or a student).

Get started with the assignment decoders

On the left-hand side of the pages in each section is an "assignment decoder" button that links to a Google Doc template tailored to that section. The decoders are a standalone diagnostic tool that can be used at any stage of an assignment. Their main goal is to help you assess where you're at—in the design, teaching, or writing process—and how to think about revising a prompt you're designing, focusing on certain skills you're teaching, or asking for help on something you're writing.

All of the decoders come with instructions, including bigger picture things to consider as well as a quick-start guide. For direct access to all of the decoders (and a template for drafting assignment prompts), head straight to the Decoders+ section of the site from the main menu.