Common Assignments: A Year in Review

We have completed the pilots of the ICaP common assignments. In the Fall of 2017, ICaP administrators in conjunction with the grad student-run Pedagogical Initiatives Committee (PIC) began developing six different common assignments to trial run in English 106 and 106-I courses during the Spring 2018 semester. This was a decision made largely in response to the Council of Writing Program Administrator’s (CWPA) external review of our program a year prior, which suggested a common assignment could be a good way to introduce more consistency to our diverse syllabus approach system while at the same time preserving instructor freedom.

Since then, a team led by and consisting entirely of graduate students across the English department has collectively developed and taught, as well as rated and analyzed samples of, six different common assignments piloted by 39 instructors and completed by more than 780 Purdue composition students. From the outset, this project strived to be a grassroots, bottom-up effort so that those with the most skin in the game had a seat at the table. At every stage of this project, we tried to engage with grad students and lecturers in order to cultivate a localized assessment initiative attuned to the actual experiences of ICaP instructors.

We learned a great deal from these pilots, and we have taken that knowledge into account to make evidence-based decisions about changes to the common assignment options going forward. Given that participation was voluntary for these pilots, our findings should be interpreted with a certain amount of caution. More specifically, there are issues with sample size and randomization, which impact generalizability. Nonetheless, the data we did gather and analyzed helped to start assembling the larger picture, and we used appropriate caution when making final decisions. As the common assignment component of ICaP becomes mandatory this semester, the assignments have been updated to address the most pressing issues we encountered during these pilots.

The assessment report, linked below, contains a full write up of the conditions leading to the advent of the common assignments, the process undertaken developing them, the findings of initial assessment efforts, and the changes we made and recommend making moving forward. We share this report to maintain the grassroots spirit and transparency of a truly bottom-up assessment project we set out with. Any questions, comments, or concerns should be directed to Daniel Ernst at Thanks.

Assessment Report 2017-18