Successful creative assignments start with a solid framework to build out the assignment on top of. This takes some initial planning before getting to any of the "fun stuff," but if you take these considerations into account initially, the end results of this preparation will be a fun and engaging assignment for your students and yourself!
It may seem like an obvious statement, but it's easy to see a cool new piece of technology or emerging media and immediately want to incorporate it into your class. However, there can be a lot of neat tools, techniques, and platforms that just aren't a great fit with the type of lesson you're trying to teach and the learning outcomes you're trying to assess. Always begin with your explicit learning outcome. Are you teaching a specific concept or theory that you need students to understand and be able to apply broadly? Are you building foundational practices that will be critical for future assignments and modes of thinking? Are you assessing student understanding of research practices? There are myriad learning practices and forms of digital media, and not everything will serve the learning outcomes you've decided upon.
Once you've decided on an approach to a creative assignment, explore projects that have come before and get comfortable with what skilled production looks like, as well as novice and hobbyist production. Understand that your students come from a variety of backgrounds, and their creative skills in particular fields will vary wildly. It’ll be your job as an instructor and assessor to explain your expectations and work to see the intention within the creative expression from your students instead of the quality of the production. We’re all learning and having fun, the goal is to assess their understanding of your course content while being creative and experimenting.
Build multiple opportunities into your syllabus for students to practice the methods of inquiry and creativity in your creative assignment. Want to have students make a video essay as a final project? Have an earlier assignment that asks them to put multiple clips of footage together to make an argument without recording anything. Build another assignment that teaches essay outlining through storyboarding. Just as you ask your students to be creative, get creative yourself in building core competencies with other assignments in the course so you don’t have to set aside an entire week of skills training before a major assignment that could lead to confusion and frustration.
Unless you’re teaching a film course or a computer science course, the rubric’s emphasis should be on the content of the creative project rather than the execution of the project. Returning to step 2 – intention over quality – you’re looking to set students up for success by building rubrics that. You may want to start with the technical aspects of what an appropriate project should look like, but keep your grading weight between roughly 10%-20%. You don’t want the project itself to be negligible to success, but you also don’t want to hamstring a student if they just miss the mark either. Following that, build your rubric around what your learning goals are. Are students being asked to make an argument? Create a rubric that states they need to clearly articulate their position and argument they are making. Is this an “explainer” project that is about communicating a complex topic to a general audience? Build a rubric around accurate information, proper citations, and clear delivery within your chosen form. In my teaching and work with students on project planning, I utilize Frank Robinson’s concept of the Minimum Viable Product (2001) which frames projects in terms of good enough to communicate their use/value/reason for existing in order to explore whether or not it’s something worth honing into a more polished product. This is the basic of iterative design work, but within the context of creative assignments, think of it as an exploration in alternative forms of knowledge production that is more about how something is communicated within the form you’ve chosen, not necessarily whether or not it looks good doing it!