Assignment design can be rough. It's one of those talents teachers of writing develop over time with coffee, a sense of humor, and reflection. Too few of us get the mentoring we need to build successful writing assignments--the kind that are scaffolded enough to provide authentic learning moments and to produce writing aligned with course goals, but also the kind that engage and inspire writers.
I admire the tenacity of Bri Lafond, who teaches at Riverside City College and CSU San Bernardino. In her 2017 CCCC presentation "Thinking Outside the 'Box Logic': Curating Context in the FYC Classroom," she described multiple attempts at a single assignment and semester after semester of reflecting and tweaking. Courageous work. She asks her students to pick a year in history, locate primary sources (a song, a news story, a work of art), juxtapose the sources, and produce a multimodal composition in which they analyze patterns and make an argument. She admits it hasn't gone well. She's changed up the requirements now four times to account for students' lack of knowledge of 20th century history, struggles with information literacy, and lack of experience with analytical writing.
What I loved about Lafond's presentation is that she didn't end with a "Ta-da!" moment. She didn't present a perfect assignment for the taking. She presented a process-- a messy, head-scratching, sometimes-head-banging process. She presented a case study in reflection. And she presented, I think, an argument for more attention to assignment design and development in teacher training and mentoring programs.