Clarity of Assignment Prompts: Considering Multimodality

stack of papers with paper clips

Contributed by Pary Fassihi 

(1 minute read)

A clear assignment prompt will give students all the information they need to complete the assignment. Not only does this set the students up for success, but it also saves time and reduces any confusion they may experience. There are some common reasons students may find themselves confused when reviewing assignment sheets. For example, the assignment sheet may be too lengthy, give students too many directions and options, lack clear directives for students or simply lack guidelines. Check out our list of Key Components of Assignment Prompts for some of the key information that would typically be included in an assignment sheet. 

One way to increase the clarity of assignment requirements is by implementing multimodal elements into the assignment sheets we share with students. Multimodal assignment prompts are those that include varied modes of communicating the assignment requirements and guidelines, via text, images, audio and/or video. In addition, considering the principles of Universal Design for Learning allows for increased clarity and accessibility of the assignment sheet for the students. For example, you may decide to include specific instructions for completing a segment of the assignment, and add an explainer video as an alternative to the text. Or you may choose to add an image that will help support a section of a text you have.

There are a variety of tools that can support building multimodal assignment sheets. You may use a program as simple as a Word document and incorporate images, or you may use a web-based platform, such as Google docs or Adobe Spark that supports audio/video and allows for updates/changes after it’s shared with students. Check out this recent resource on Creating Multimodal Assignment Prompts with Adobe Spark from a BU Teaching with Technology Faculty Community presentation in September 2021. 

Keep in mind that having a large amount of text in an assignment sheet may disengage students. Implementing different modes of communication in assignment sheets allows the instructor to reduce text and encourages students to review the detail of the assignment in varied ways, which may lead to deeper understanding of the information. This implementation of multimodality in assignment prompts not only portrays information in multiple ways, but it also allows for more flexibility, creativity and increased accessibility of information for the students.