SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENTS Amy Driscoll WASC Resource Fair January 2011
Signature Assignments• What are signature assignments?• When are signature assignments appropriate and useful?• How are signature assignments designed?• What are the advantages and disadvantages of signature assignments?
Definition of Signature Assignments• A generic task, problem, case, or project that can be tailored or contextualized in different disciplines or course contexts.• Signatures are defining characteristics that reveal thinking or practices (Shulman, 2005).• Signature assignments have the potential to help us know whether student learning reflects “the ways of thinking and doing of disciplinary experts”.
Characteristics of Signature Assignments• Course-embedded assessment• Well aligned with LO’s• Authentic in terms of process/content, “real world” application• May include reflection• Collaboratively designed by faculty
When/Why Signature Assignments Are Appropriate and Useful• In general education when multiple courses meet common requirements and shared LO’s – provides a common data set to enable documentation of general education LO’s being met.
Why and When?• When multiple sections of the same course are offered by multiple faculty with varied pedagogy – enables programs to collect common data across the course sections for program evaluation and review.
Why and When?• When Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILO’s) are met in varied programs and departments across the institution – provides a common data set which enables the institution to determine whether graduates are meeting the ILO’s
Design Process for Signature Assignments1. Faculty review one or more of the agreed upon targeted learning outcomes and come to a common interpretation of them.2. Faculty use the learning outcomes to brainstorm possible and aligned tasks, problems, examples, etc. (these are often suggested within the outcomes)
Taking Apart A Learning Outcome:• EX. Students analyze a __________ issue from multiple perspectives and form a personal position of agreement/support or action.Possible tasks: Articulate and analyze an issue Identify sources Describe multiple perspectives Develop a position statement
Connecting to Contexts• Kinds of Issues: sociological business educational scientific technological ethical artistic historical economic international community political
Design Process con’t3. First draft of the assignment is intentionallygeneric (in context) to allow for multiple disciplinesand contexts.4. Assignment is tailored for varied course ordisciplinary contexts.5. All faculty users agree to the use and tocollaborative review of student work samples.6. Faculty engage in conversations aboutexpectations in student work, preferably design arubric.
Advantages of Signature Assignments• Promote faculty discussions of student learning, pedagogy, assessment (culture of learning)• Provides significant common data sets to use in documenting program impact, or institutional impact (LO’s achieved)• Yields insights specifically about achievement of learning outcomes
More Advantages• Engages students in important learning activities• Guides pedagogy especially practice for learning• Has potential for application or transfer to another department or institution for informative comparisons
Disadvantages of Signature Assignments• Require time for development• May be translated as rigid or confining of curriculum or pedagogy• Requires faculty agreement
Opportunity for Practice: Designing Signature Assignments• Differentiates and evaluates theories and approaches to complex standard and non- standard problems within major field.• Assesses the contributions of major figures (and organizations if applicable) in field, describes the major methodologies and/or practices in the field and implements two of them in varied forms (papers, performances, exhibits, projects). Source: Lumina 2011