Defining What Will an Assignment Prompt Do

An assignment prompt is a set of instructions given to students that clearly outlines the objectives and requirements for completing an assignment. Writing effective prompts is a crucial skill for educators as it sets students up for success and provides clarity on expectations. This article will examine key components of good assignment prompts and provide examples across various contexts.

Purpose of Assignment Prompts

Assignment prompts serve multiple important functions:

  • Communicate learning objectives: Prompts align tasks directly with course learning goals so students understand the purpose behind assignments. This motivates learning and focuses effort.
  • Set expectations: Prompts clarify exactly what students must do, how work should be formatted/organized, and any supplementary resources available. This prevents confusion and mistakes.
  • Streamline grading: Explicit prompts allow instructors to consistently evaluate student work against a predefined rubric. Students also can self-assess more easily.

In summary, well-crafted prompts enhance learning experiences for both students and teachers.

Key Components of Effective Prompts

While specifics vary across fields, quality assignment prompts generally contain:

1. Clear Instructions

  • Task: Succinctly explain the exact requirements in simple language. Use active voice and avoid vague directives like “discuss” or “analyze”.
  • Length/Format: Provide concrete formatting guidelines tailored to the assignment type if applicable.
  • Submission Method: Specify how/where students should turn in finished work.

2. Background & Resources

  • Context: Give students requisite background to adequately complete the task if needed.
  • Examples: Share samples of excellent work when useful for modeling expectations.
  • Resources: List any readings, data, or tools students should use to support their work.

3. Grading Criteria

  • Scoring: Explain how assignments will be scored, including any rubrics or point allocations.
  • Late Policy: State consequences for late submissions upfront to avoid issues.

Assignment Prompt Examples

Below are examples of strong assignment prompts across different contexts:

English Literature Prompt

Task: In a 1000-word literary analysis, critique the use of metaphor in Chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath to convey the Joad family’s struggles. Cite at least two specific examples.

This prompt gives students clear direction on the analysis to conduct, length and formatting requirements, and background on evaluating metaphors within a literary context.

Nursing Prompt

Task: As a newly hired nurse at Community Hospital, draft a 1-page memo with recommendations to reduce hospital-acquired infections based on the provided case studies.

This prompt situates an authentic task within a real-world health care context while specifying the exact document students need to create.

Computer Science Prompt

Task: Using the provided starter code, write a recursive Python function to compute the nth Fibonacci number. Include at least 3 test cases validating correct output.

The prompt contains clear coding specifications and expectations to assess students’ technical skills.

Best Practices for Writing Prompts

Follow these tips when drafting assignment prompts:

  • Start early: Begin creating prompts when first planning assessments to ensure proper scaffolding.
  • Use simple language: Explain tasks clearly and concisely with no unnecessary jargon.
  • Check for clarity: Have a colleague review prompts and rubrics to identify gaps.
  • Set firm deadlines: Leave no room for confusion on due dates/times to avoid issues.
  • Link to outcomes: Connect prompts explicitly to broader learning goals for the course or unit.

Following these best practices will lead to prompts that set students up for success!

AI Prompt Examples


AI assistants rely heavily on the prompts provided to them to generate helpful and relevant content. Here are some examples of effective AI prompts:

Lead Generation

“Generate 10 unique ideas for gated lead magnets in the home improvement niche tailored to DIY homeowners with families.”

This prompt provides key details like industry, lead magnet type, target persona, and number of ideas needed.

Social Media Post Drafting

“Write 5 draft Facebook posts announcing our nonprofit’s upcoming 5K fundraiser event, highlighting key details like date, location, cause, and registration.”

This prompt guides the AI to create event announcements tailored for a nonprofit’s Facebook audience.

Podcast/Video Script Drafting

“Script a 1500-word beginner’s guide to SEO we could produce as a YouTube tutorial, covering topics like metadata, backlinks, site architecture, and keyword research.”

This prompt requests a specific video script length and outlines the key SEO topics to cover.

Content Promotion

“Suggest 3 alternative headlines, meta descriptions, and social media captions to promote an existing blog post on common Excel formulas for marketers.”

This prompt asks the AI to repackage existing content for better promotion across channels.

Content Repurposing

“Transform our outdated 2018 beginner’s guide to Python blog post into a new 2023 version, updating any obsolete information and examples while keeping the core structure intact.”

This type of prompt can save time by improving outdated evergreen content rather than starting fresh.

Key Takeaways

  • Well-crafted assignment prompts set clear expectations, facilitate assessment, and support student learning.
  • Effective prompts contain straightforward task descriptions, background context, examples, and grading details.
  • Prompts should use simple language focused on key objectives tied to course/unit outcomes.
  • AI tools need clear, detailed prompts to generate high-quality, tailored content for different use cases.

By following these best practices for writing prompts, educators and AI users alike can improve clarity, productivity, and results!

Useful Resources:

Purdue OWL on Assignment Prompts

Harvard Bok Center’s Assignment Design Guide

University of Michigan’s Prompt Self-Assessment Tool