In a recent interview, I have been asked how to design assignments for an undergraduate course on computer science. Based on my previous TA experience, I did help my supervisor to design students assignments. My method is very simple --- because all the archived versions of this course in the past semesters are all on the server, I just need to use some of the past assignments as a mirror with some modifications.

However, when I told my above method to the interviewer, he looked very surprised and disappointed. Maybe my method is not right? If so, could someone give me any ideas on the correct way to design assignments? Thanks.

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    Depending what kind of job this was, I would guess the interviewer was looking for more evidence of original and creative teaching methods than "I'd keep using what the last guy made." Particularly since this repository of past assignments would presumably not be available to you in a new job at a different institution. But I think "How to design assignments" is too broad for an SE question - instructors spend their careers perfecting this craft. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 3:12
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    Really, that's not the answer that an interviewer would like to hear. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 6:55
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    Perhaps this was a misunderstanding? You took it as a question about what you did, but it was really a question about what you would do to design your own assignments?
    – user24098
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


An instructor has a responsibility to develop their own forms of assessment. What others have done before can serve as an inspiration but what they did is never adequate for several reasons.

  1. Your students are not the same
  2. You are not the same

Since you and the students are different. Prior assessment would probably not be appropriate as you will teach and they will learn slightly differently. You may stress aspects of the course that the other teacher did not and the students might ask about information that was not covered in the last class.

There is a common three step process to developing a curriculum called backward design.

  1. What do the students need to know (as defined by the goals and objectives of the course)
  2. What evidence will the students produce to demonstrate mastery of the content (i.e. the assessment, activities and assignments they will do)
  3. How will you teach (lecture, discussion, etc)

This simple format can be used in any field to provide learning experiences that are consistent with the assessment and goals of the course.

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