At Cengage Learning, we recently surveyed thousands of college students and instructors about the practices that best engage students. We gained some helpful insights, particularly when it came to what gets students interested in their assignments. Instructors revealed what makes their class do the best on their assignments and students explained what makes their assignments most interesting.

Assignments get the best results when…

1. Expectations are clear

The top response standing out among students and instructors alike is that students must have the utmost clarity in their assignments in order to succeed. According to one instructor, students do best on assignments when “I have an exciting, task-based activity with CLEAR instructions and guidance, with gradual difficulty.” Another said it is when “I provide substantive written feedback. They know they are taken seriously [and] graded fairly and read with interest by the professor, etc.”

2. Students see the value

While this may be easier to achieve in higher-level or trade-focused courses, relevancy to students’ future goals is important in all courses. One instructor shared that students do best on their assignments when “they feel it relates to their individual academic and professional goals.” A student explained that assignments are most interesting when “they’re similar to what I will do post-graduation.”

3. Students come to their own conclusions

The third most prevalent theme showed that students excel when they are able to come to their own understanding of the material through activities such as group work or active learning.  One student revealed that assignments are most interesting when “we are asked to think on our own in logical and critical terms.” When students are able to think critically and apply their own experiences, they’ll leave the lesson with a firmer understanding of the concepts.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing even more insights from our survey that reveal how instructors around the country foster engagement in their classrooms. We’ll also be sharing hints from the students themselves on what keeps them interested in their coursework.

Do these three tips apply to the success rates of your students’ assignments? Share any additional insights in the comments below.