Faculty Services > Course, Assignment Design

Model Writing Assignments for a Biology Course

The Campuswide Writing Program works with faculty members to create and refine writing assignments appropriate to their particular courses and their individual educational aims and teaching styles. The materials linked to this page were put together as Lisa Kurz consulted with a member of the Biology Department to design assignments that instructors of potential Biology TOPICS courses might find useful. The first item (to which the others are linked) is an annotated list of types of assignments that could be used in Biology TOPICS courses. The assignment types fall into several basic categories: various types of microthemes (assignments that are intended to generate a lot of thought before a little writing—often a page or less), explanations of multiple choice answers, so-called “meaningful paragraphs,” scenarios or puzzles, analyses of data or graphs, group projects, and annotated journals. All of these assignment types can be useful as tools to help students learn and understand theories, or apply those theories to new data or situations. More importantly, however, these assignments are also manageable even in large classes like TOPICS courses, because they are all designed to generate essays of a page or less (with the exception of the group projects, which generate a much smaller number of somewhat longer essays). Most of the assignment types are linked to a set of sample assignments and to references to articles from the Writing Program library that discuss assignments like these and their potential uses in a variety of courses. Copies of the articles were provided to the faculty member who originally worked with the Writing Program; the annotated list refers to specific pages in the articles.

Any other faculty member who would like to discuss the creation of documents like these (or other ways of incorporating writing into their courses, large or small) should feel free to contact the Writing Program.