Problem Solving Assignments (including design assignments)

Goals for student learning:

  • Develop analytical solutions to problems
  • Evaluate alternative solutions        
  • Make academic arguments in a quantitative or technical field  

Be aware that:

  • Students may benefit from a sequence of smaller assignments that culminates in the (written, visual, or oral) presentation of a project.
  • Students may not understand the conventions for scientific (or STEM) writing, including conventions for writing with sources.
  • Students may not understand the ethos—or mechanics—of citation in your field.

To encourage active, deep, and honest engagement:

  • Specify the analytic task you wish students to complete: to find a solution that achieves a desired outcome, for instance, or to propose an empirical design that answers a particular scientific question.
  • In a lab course in which groups of students design experiments, consider asking each group to present an initial design considerations and goals for their experiment before implementing it, allowing you to assess and respond to students' thinking at the beginning of the assignment.
  • If the design project is a group project, you may wish to differentiate the products of one student’s thinking from another's by using peer evaluation or individual self-reflection.
  • Require students to cite faithfully and accurately, and explain how citation is connected to the intellectual life of your discipline.

Assignment types and examples:

  • CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate) assignment
  • Design Project, Project

Resources for faculty:

Tomorrow’s Professor, "Teaching and Grading Group Assignments"