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Emergent Outcomes 
12 Steps for Designing an Assignment 
Photo by Ray Smith
Jesse Stommel 
You can also follow Mary the Dog @MLAdog
“An unhealthy attachment to outcomes discourages experimentation.” ! 
! ~ Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh, and Jesse S...
Don’t wield outcomes like a weapon. Learning and teaching 
are about inhabiting the present not the future, letting our 
We haven’t been nearly imaginative enough with outcomes. I 
want outcomes like “for us to have an epiphany” or “for 
12 Questions I ask myself when 
creating an assignment 
1. What are my primary goals for students with this assignment?! 
What are my primary goals for students with this 
assignment? (1)
“Too often, faculty design pedagogy around the worst-case scenario and 
then apply that pedagogy to every student."! 
~ Ja...
How do my goals for this assignment intersect with my 
broader teaching philosophy? (2)
“Curriculum [...] is constructed and negotiated in real time by the 
contributions of those engaged in the learning proces...
What tools that I already use (analog or digital) could 
help me achieve these goals? (3)
It is often best to use the tools with which we are already 
familiar, rather than turning to the shiny and newfangled. 
In order for this activity / class to work, what gaps do I 
need to fill with other tools / strategies? (4)
Bring students into the conversation as early as possible by 
having them collaborate on the syllabus, outline the objecti...
Is my idea simple enough? What can I do to streamline 
the activity? (5)
Don’t feel like you have to meet all the goals during the first 
attempt — think of the process, from the start, as iterat...
What is my goal beyond this assignment / course? How 
will the activity (and my pedagogy) evolve? (6)
Outcomes for an assignment emerge over time through the 
work of each group of students. If I articulate outcomes too 
Go back to step 1 and work through steps 1-6 again 
(and likely several times). (7)
Consider the next steps “below the fold”, because assessment 
should never drive our pedagogies. Rather, good assessment i...
Does this activity need to be assessed? Or does the 
activity have intrinsic value? (8)
Teachers often grade in many more situations than grading is 
actually required. We should avoid with a gusto any impulse ...
Is there a way to organically build the assessment into 
the assignment itself? (9)
"When students struggle for excellence only for the sake of a grade, what 
we see is not motivation but atrophy of motivat...
What additional assessment strategies should I use? 
External summative assessment should be a last resort. (10)
These might include self-assessment, peer-assessment, 
narrative feedback, points, a rubric, a letter grade, or some 
What is my goal in assessing student work? Is my 
assessment enhancing student learning? (11)
The goal of education should always be better learning and 
not better assessments. 
Photo by flickr user Johnny Worthingt...
Go back to step 8. Particularly, reconsider the question: 
Does this activity need to be assessed? (12)
“A class is … an independent organism with its own goal and dynamics. 
It is always something more than what even the most...! 
Photo by flickr user Taro Taylor
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Don’t wield outcomes like a weapon. Learning and teaching
are about inhabiting the present not the future, letting our
possible paths evolve as we do.
Photo by flickr user 55Laney69

Published in: Education
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