Peek-a-Boo!: Previewing Assignments to Set Up Student Success

Submitted by Erin Blomstrand on
What is the Purpose of the Assessment?

Students need to understand what is being asked of them when tackling an essay assignment.


Describe the necessity for this assessment

Some students misjudge or don't understand what is being asked of them when they write for a specific essay assignment.

Describe how the practice will be implemented

I created a short 10 point assignment in which students preview the upcoming essay assignment. Students respond to specific questions that allow me to quickly address errors in their perception of what they're being asked to do, and correct those perceptions as well as answer any specific questions they might have about the assignment.

Interpret, compare, and describe the results

For all the major writing assignments in ENG101 (SUM2018) students will complete the Preview Assignment.

After analyzing, and reflecting on the outcome, what are the next steps?

Results from the three ENG101 classes from SUM2018 are positive. I've been able to clarify and realign students about specific writing assignments they are tacking and set them up for success. Going forward, I will add Preview Assignments to all my classes in F2019 and create a course survey to find out student perception of the assignments and how helpful they found the tool.



Helping students find success is the goal of teaching. By adding a short preview assignment allowing students to focus on upcoming larger essay assignments in Canvas, they learn the importance of taking the time to review assignment instructions before starting in, they think about what they're being asked to do, what challenges they might face while working on the asisgnment, what resources they can access for help, and ask specific questions of their instructor. Instructors can immediately respond and clarify or realign student preceptions setting students up for success.

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Analicia Buentello Mon, 09/16/2019 - 2:23pm

What a great solution! Have you also found it to be successul this semester so far?

Kelly Loucy Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:14am

I like how you framed their expecations by asking them what they found exciting and interesting about the assignments as well as what resources they might use or challenges they might face in completing the assignment, rather than just a checkbox of "yes, I understand the assignment."

Anastasia Amabisca Wed, 09/18/2019 - 10:18am

I really love this idea when you initially told me about it! By having students be more reflective about the assignment right from the start, it seems like it would help them be more thoughtful about the assignment as they compose. I'm totally stealing this!

Becky Baranowski Thu, 09/19/2019 - 11:01am


Thank you so much for documenting this.  The idea of a preview assignment is fantastic, and I already have some ideas of how I can do this with some math concepts.  I also love that your colleagues are chiming in and wanting to use this in their classes.  

Anna Quinones Fri, 09/20/2019 - 7:20am

Thank you Erin.   I love this support structure.  I can certainly reinforce this and make connections in my RDG courses.  In my Reading Improvement class we were just discussing 'previewing of texts' as a reading strategy---It engages prior experience, asks them to think about what they already know about the subject matter, the author, or publication.  They can then anticipate what new information might be ahead for them when they return to read the text more closely. 

Tracy Sieglaff Fri, 09/20/2019 - 7:41am

Hi Erin -- This is great. I can actually totally see using this in conjunction with introducing a new unit/module as well, especially since sometimes students get nervous about things they have not really learned before. Like Stace, I do believe I will be using your idea....

:-) Tracy

Catherine Cochran Mon, 10/14/2019 - 1:59pm

Hi Erin,

This is excellent!  I look forward to learning what the survey results tell you.  I love the festive CATS title too.  Thank you for sharing!