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Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Student Success
August 28, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Writing Assignment Design & Assessment

We provide descriptions of and resources for several pedagogical strategies to improve student writing.  Please contact us to help you design assignments that meet your learning goals for students.  See here for other assignments you can use to make your course a writing-intensive course.

Embedded or scaffolded assignments are small assignments that build towards and constitute a larger, more complex assignment. These smaller assignments build students' skills and allow them to see how a large project can be broken down into manageable and necessary chunks.


Green, G.P., Bean, J.C., & Peterson, D.J. (2013). Deep learning in intermediate micro-economics: Using scaffolding assignments to teach theory and promote transfer. Journal of Economic Education, 44(2), 142-157. Available here.


Writing portfolios are, essentially, a collection of one's written work. They can be used effectively in a variety of courses to develop students' knowledge of writing and discipline-specific subject matter. Students can use portfolios to take ownership of their writing practice and to self-monitor their progress. Instructors can use portfolios to assess students' development of both writing and subject matter competencies. In brief, portfolios allow students to assemble and present their best written work and to demonstrate their experiences with the writing process.

Portfolios can be in print or online and are suitable for many students, including English language learners.


Chung, S.J. (2012). Portfolio assessment in ESL academic writing: Examining the effects of reflection in the writing process. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Available here.

Paulson, L. F., Paulson, P. R., & Meyer, C. A. (1991). What makes a portfolio a portfolio? Educational Leadership. Available here.

Romova, Z., & Andrew, M. (2011). Teaching and assessing academic writing via the portfolio: Benefits for learners of English as an additional language. 60-63. Available here.

Schneider, C. G. (2009). The proof is in the portfolio. Liberal Education, 95(1), 2-3. Available here.

Song, B., & August, B. (2002). Using portfolios to assess the writing of ESL students: A powerful alternative? Journal of Second Language Writing, 11(1), 49-72. Available here.

White, E. M. (1991). Teaching and assessing writing : recent advances in understanding, evaluating, and improving student performance. Available here.


Rubrics can be used to express specific assignment expectations to students and to evaluate students' work according to specified criteria. Effective rubrics break down assignment goals and communicate to students components of assignments. Examples of rubrics can be found here.


Wilson, M. (2006). Rethinking rubrics in writing assessment. Available here.