Being an instructor in a classroom is often an act of translation: The person who designed the course you're teaching (who may or may not be you) had a mental model of how an upcoming assignment will unfold, and students need the same mental model in order for the whole thing to be an intentional educational experience. Successful translation means clarifying what the designer's mental model is and communicating it—and knowing you've communicated it—to your students.
Three moments in this process stand out:
- Framing the assignment, which roughly corresponds to walking through the prompt with students and unpacking each of its elements.
- Scaffolding and sequencing the steps of the assignment, which involves the class meetings that prepare students to complete an assignment. How this looks will depend on the type of assignment your students are working with, e.g., for a capstone research essay assignment, this moment might last for a large part of the semester.
- Feedback on the assignment, which certainly means giving students feedback in the form of the final, summative feedback that comes with a grade, but ideally means moments of lower-stakes, formative feedback throughout the timeline of the assignment.
For each of these moments there are common challenges, some of which are more likely to occur in Gen Ed courses, and some of which are fairly common overall. In any situation, though, the same concrete advice and tools can make each moment easier to navigate and allow all of the moments to work together.