Any assignment that is “just an assignment,” or “just builds skills,” cannot engage students as effectively as an assignment that creates a specific writing situation akin to those mentioned in the student section, Why Write? Faced with odd responses to writing assignments, we sometimes ask, “Would you write that way to your boss?” Well, we can build that frustrated question into our assignments by creating a writing situation that addresses a “real life” job-situation.
Practical Implications: Especially for more involved assignments, try creating a brief summary of a “real-world” situation, and construing the student’s paper as a response to that situation. For example, a research-paper assignment might appear as a “call for papers” for a special issue of a journal, or a response/summary-paper assignment might appear as a request for a report. The more creative and interesting the writing situation, the more students will feel called upon to write effective, specific arguments to address the situation.