Q: What is a Signature Assignment? A: A signature assignment is real-world application of knowledge that addresses two or more of the General Education learning outcomes (excepting substantive knowledge in the discipline, which is a given) and is accompanied by some reflective writing. It is not an additional assignment, but one that you already incorporate into your course.
Q: What are some examples of signature assignments? A: Except for exams and quizzes, most of the kinds of assignments faculty already give in Gen Ed courses would meet the definition of a signature assignment. For instance, any of the following--when accompanied by a few paragraphs of reflective writing--would be ideal for inclusion into an ePortfolio:
Essays, response papers, lab reports or research papers all tap discipline-specific knowledge (Learning Outcome #1) and effective communication (LO #2), and possibly quantitative literacy (LO #3) if the subject requires students to perform data analysis.
Solution to a realistic Math problem that asks students to write about the process of solving the problem, the relevance of the problem, and/or the application of the problem solving skill to other issues or areas of life. The problem addresses quantitative literacy (LO #3) and critical thinking (LO #4).
Photos, graphics, or three-dimensional artwork can all be represented in an ePortfolio and likely address discipline knowledge (LO #1) and the creative aspects of critical thinking (LO #4).
Service-learning or field study experiences clearly address discipline knowledge (LO #1). Service- learning addresses civic engagement, which is part of LO #5, and field studies might address any of the other learning outcomes.
Powerpoints, spreadsheets, databases, and webpages can all be represented in--or linked to--the Gen Ed ePortfolio, and may tap any of the college-wide learning outcomes.
Poetry, fiction, pamphlets, posters, and other forms of writing address discipline knowledge (LO #1) and the creative aspects of critical thinking (LO #4).
Products of group projects can be excellent signature assignments, allowing students to demonstrate the portion of LO #5 dealing with the ability to “work with others in a professional and constructive manner” as well as any of the other learning outcomes.
Q: What else can I do for signature assignments? A: A number of faculty are having students build really elaborate course pages or mini-websites within their ePortfolio as the signature assignment. Students in ENGL 2010, for example, use the ePortfolio to create an online magazine of their writing--and the Editor's Note to the magazine serves as the reflective writing. In POLS 2100, students create informative websites instead of writing traditional papers.
Q: How many signature assignments should students put in their Gen Ed ePortfolio? A: At least one per class. You can identify the one signature assignment in the course that all students will put in their ePortfolios, or you can identify several potential signature assignments during the semester, and ask students to put their best one in the ePortfolio. You could also have students put in one assignment from early in the course and one from later in the course, as a way for students to demonstrate their progress.
Q: Are there advantages to having more than one signature assignment? A: Yes. The more students interact with the ePortfolio, the more confident they feel. Additional signature assignments allow students to demonstrate a broader range of learning outcomes. If your course identifies more than one signature assignment, students then have the opportunity to curate their learning by identifying their strongest work to showcase.