Coordinate your assignments with your course learning objectives and outcomes. (See Bloom’s Taxonomy for help in this regard.) For each assignment, clearly define what you expect beforehand in terms of content, structure, level of work, and length. Base your assessment criteria on these probable results and provide rubrics to the students.
Scaffolding assignments is a viable means by which students might develop and build on their abilities, particularly in courses that feature terminal papers or projects. During the course of a semester or academic year (or even longer), sometimes faculty realize that students do not succeed when too much weight or importance is placed upon singular assignments. Scaffolding helps address this concern by 1) allowing the instructor to track the progress of the individual students and 2) providing the students with the opportunity to track their gradual development of skills in the course.
Be cognizant of your expectations and be flexible enough to amend some of the requirements if they prove too unrealistic for your students to accomplish. Whatever assignments you design, do realize that merely creating an assignment will not safeguard students from failing to acquire or develop the associated skillset. However, the clearer the assignments are to the student, the greater chance there is for them to navigate the course and gain the projected learning outcomes.
Hogan, K., & Pressley, M. (Eds.). (1997). Scaffolding student learning: Instructional approaches and issues. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Larkin, Martha. (2002). Using scaffolded instruction to optimize learning. Accessed on 9/15/15 from http://www.vtaide.com/png/ERIC/Scaffolding.htm.
Larkin, M. J. (2001). Providing support for student independence through scaffolded instruction. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 34(1), 30-34.
Pressley, M., Hogan, K., Wharton-McDonald, R., Mistretta, J., & Ettenberger, S. (1996). The challenges of instructional scaffolding: The challenges of instruction that supports student thinking. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 11(3), 138-146