Faculty Today

What’s an assignment that really helped you learn?

That was the question McGill University’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) asked students on campus in 2018 and again in a campus-wide survey in 2019. Understanding students’ perceptions of how they learn can inform our development of instructor support resources, such as workshops, webinars and resource documents.

When students described assignments that helped them learn, a number of themes emerged. For example, students believe their learning is supported through real-world activities and creative assignments that foster their critical thinking skills. Students also expressed that short, regular assignments that make them stay up to date with course work reinforce their learning.

We thought readers might be interested in seeing examples of assignments—assessment strategies, from instructors’ perspective—that students believe help them learn. So, we decided to add some of the strategies that students told us about in the survey to the Beyond Grading: Strategies from McGill Instructors web page. This online collection of assessment strategies intends to provide colleagues with a go-to place when they’re seeking inspiration for their teaching. (You can read more about this online collection in an earlier post.)

The newly-added strategies call upon students to develop their critical thinking skills in the context of real-world activities: 10 Questions, 10 Answers (W. Archambault), In-class Debate (S. Burgos), and Scientific Source Evaluation (S. Woolley and T. Western). The Hands-on Creative Project (C. Bradley) was deemed a “unique” alternative to the traditional research paper in that it allows students to demonstrate their learning through a variety of media.

COVID-19 has imposed upon many in higher education the need to implement less familiar assessment strategies. If you’re looking for ideas, we hope you’ll check out the strategies from McGill instructors, many of which can be adapted for remote teaching.

More strategies will be added to the online collection in the coming weeks. In the meantime:

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