Most writing assignments fit into one of three categories: closed assignments, open assignments or semi-closed assignments.
Closed Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well the students have internalized information. The prompt asks for a student’s persuasive response. They are “closed” questions. For example:
- Was the U.S. justified in invading Iraq?
- In your opinion, was Napoleon a leader to be admired or condemned?
- Should Russia be admitted into the European Union?
The student’s task is to make a claim and then support that claim with valid evidence.
Open Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well students can explain a topic within abroad context of information. They are “open-ended” questions. For example:
- Describe your journey as a literate person.
- Analyze the effects of the sugar trade on the institution of slavery.
- What should be done to resolve the post-colonial ethnic disputes in sub-Saharan Africa?
The student’s task is to determine the scope and narrow the subject to fit their interests while keeping the information within the assigned page limit.
Semi-closed Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well students have internalized information within a very specific topic. These assignments ask “open-ended questions” within a closed topic. For example:
- Explain the relationship between the United Nations and one of its member states.
- Compare and contrast the economic theories of two modern economists.
- Discuss the most pressing issues of globalization.
The student’s task is to make an argument within a specific focused topic.
Adapted from L. L. Irvin, “What is Academic Writing?” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 1, 2010.