How to Write Compelling Final Project Prompts

Final projects make or break a course.

A good final project incorporates everything the student has learned in the course. It lends structure and meaning to the assignments that precede it, and it offers the student a chance to demonstrate mastery of course material in a way that is authentic to the subject matter. In an introductory nutrition course, for example, a good final project might ask students to complete an educational flyer or develop a blueprint for a blog. Both of these assignments help students cultivate skills they will use in the discipline.

A bad final project is unrelated to course material. It fails to provide context; that is, it does not explain why students should complete the project besides simply fulfilling a course requirement. It asks students to complete rote, uninspiring work. It does not engage or inspire; it requires only a dreary slog to the finish line.

But even the best final project can fall flat if it is not adequately explained in the prompt that accompanies it. They work together hand in glove. A good final assignment prompt should serve as a checklist for ensuring a project meets the requirements of an effective and meaningful assessment. That is, the prompt should leave students with a clear idea of an assignment’s purpose and expectations. Happily, sound advice on crafting effective assignment prompts abound on the Internet.

The writing center at Southwestern University for example offers great advice on crafting assignment prompts. The center has identified 6 parts of an effective prompt. They are:

  • An articulation of purpose that explains the significance of the project
  • A summary of the assignment requirements and parts
  • Statement of the logistics involved (length, due date, etc.)
  • Key components of the project
  • Framing questions
  • Evaluation criteria

For more on what each of these parts entail, visit SU’s writing center website.

Want your final project prompt to make the grade? You can begin by making sure your assignment prompt addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the assignment? How does it relate to what students have learned thus far? How does this assignment apply to their professional career?
  1. What is the genre of the assignment (paper, presentation, etc.)?
  1. Who is the audience for this assignment?
  1. What are the basic sections of the assignment? Ex: “Your report must contain a title, abstract, introduction, figures and tables, discussion, and references.”
  1. What are the requirements for submission? (Due date, length, method of submission, formatting requirements, and citation style.)
  1. What else do students need to know to complete this assignment successfully?
  1. What are your expectations for this assignment? How will you evaluate it?
  1. Can you offer students tips for completing this assignment? Do you have models? Can you warn students about common errors?

Additional Reading: Essential Questions and Assignment Scaffolding

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