Designing Writing Assignments That Assess Students’  Higher-Level Thinking Skills

09:00 - 15:30

November 28, 2019 

Dusit Princess Hotel

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Register by

November 15, 2019

Baht 12,500 per participant​


Group of 3 or more  

Baht 10,500 per participant

Other one -day workshops by the same speaker during this period:


November 30, 2019

Starting With The Ends: Outcomes-Based Course Design and Development

November 29, 2019

Transforming Students into Self-Regulated Learners

Register for 2 one-day workshops 

Baht 21,000 per participant

Register for 3 one-day workshops

Baht 29,500 per participant

Target Audience

Teachers of the upper primary (advanced enough to give writing assignments) and the secondary levels


Participants will gain knowledge about the type and characteristics of a writing assignment (and essay question) that can assess higher-level thinking skills. They will learn how to compose such an assignment, prepare students for it, and enhance their performance on it.  Finally, they will learn how to assess/grade writing assignments by using rubrics and the specifications grading method. 

Implementable Skills

Participants will be able to:

Identify and compose writing assignments (and essay test questions) that are well-defined, focused, and targeted to assess higher-level thinking skills.


Explain the advantages and disadvantages of writing assignments as assessment instruments. 


Explain the characteristics of a good writing assignment that assesses higher-level thinking skills.


Improve their current writing assignments.


Assess/grade their students’ writing assignments using two methods: rubrics and specifications grading. 



Mindset Shift

Composing compelling writing assignments that assess higher-level thinking requires a conscious strategy. The best such assignments present students with a problematic situation, paradox, dilemma, controversy, or issue that they have to figure out how to resolve. Learning about specifications grading will cause another mindset shift because it is such a different (but fair) way to grade. 


Session 1

Advantages and disadvantages of writing assignments; higher-level thinking skills, in general and by disciplinary group; higher-level thinking operations/verbs; characteristics of good writing assignments; ways to help students succeed; questions and task prompts that will give students practice in higher-level thinking


Session 2

Application to one’s own course(s); assessing with rubrics; the process of developing a rubric step by step; the impact of the rubric’s dimensions on students’ grades


Session 3

Application of rubric guidelines to one’s own course(s); assessing using specifications grading; specs grading strategies; transitioning from traditional to specs grading


To Bring
Copies of the directions for current writing assignments

Course Leader

Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D., is director emerita of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation (OTEI) at Clemson University and author of Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors (Jossey-Bass, 2016), now in its fourth edition. She also wrote The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course (Anker/Jossey-Bass, 2007), Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (Stylus, 2013), and Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time (Stylus, 2015).


Her latest books are Online Teaching at Its Best: Merging Instructional Design with Teaching and Learning Research with Ludwika A. Goodson (Wiley, 2018) and Creating Engaging Discussions: Strategies for "Avoiding Crickets" in Any Size Classroom and Online with Jennifer H. Herman (Stylus, 2018).

Dr. Nilson’s career as a full-time faculty development director spanned over 25 years. She has published many articles and book chapters and has given about 500 keynotes, webinars, and live workshops at conferences, colleges, and universities both nationally and internationally on dozens of topics related to college teaching and scholarly productivity. She has also taught graduate seminars on college teaching.