Assignment Design Principles

Designing assignments effectively relies on the same principles as before the rise of natural language processing tools, with a few added considerations. To navigate the impact AI could have on your students achieving the learning goals you set out for them, it helps to understand how to use tools like ChatGPT.

A variety of tools can be used to generate a wide range of outputs and products including essay drafts, reading responses, coding projects, visual designs, audio threads, and more.

Tip: Feed your assignment prompts into ChatGPT and review the generated response. If GPT quickly produces what you would consider a model response, revise your prompt to make it more specific to the class, the situation, and your particular students. You can even explore Open AI’s Guide to Prompt Design or this Prompt Guide for AI.

Questions to ask

Consider asking yourself the following six questions to help guide your assignment design process:

  1. Why does this assignment make sense for this course?
  2. What are specific learning objectives for this assignment?
  3. How might students use AI tools while working on this assignment?
  4. How might AI undercut the goals of this assignment? How could you mitigate this?
  5. How might AI enhance the assignment? Where would students need help figuring that out?
  6. Focus on the process. How could you make the assignment more meaningful for students or support them more in the work?

(Questions adapted from Derek Bruff, former director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, as written in his blog.)


Below are some practical tips and strategies that foster a need for authentic, original writing. We've also outlined ways to integrate AI into an assignment's design.

Design for authentic, original writing
  • Incorporate real-time activities and assessments in your course. Read more on our Active Learning page about how to do this.
  • Design writing prompts that make reference specific to your class material. For example, "use at least two theorists discussed in class to support your answer."
  • Ask students to draw on their responses to each other in the classroom or in classroom contexts, like discussion boards or blogs. For example, in David Lipscomb’s “Writing and Culture” class, each student maintains a blog (via CNDLS Course Sites), posting and responding to peers’ posts every week.
  • Assign personalized writing. This approach may help you get to know students’ writing in more detail so you can recognize their style and tone.
  • Provide incentives for the learning process as well as the product(s). If a perfect product (test, paper) is the only way to receive an A, students are more likely to consider cheating.
  • Review your grading criteria and rubrics to make sure you’re setting your students up to adopt strong learning strategies.
  • Tailor your writing assignments to focus on a specific rhetorical context, as AI struggles to focus on the audience as well as the tone. For example, review this introductory assignment in a Georgetown computer science course.
Design to integrate AI
  • Teach students to ask good questions of to AI tools. Understanding how generative AI tools work could benefit students in the long run, as these technologies continue to develop. Asking good questions is at the heart of scholarship—how might generative AI begin to augment research processes?
  • Have your students use ChatGPT to answer a prompt and ask them to respond to the answer provided. Where does the auto-generated information succeed? Where does it fail? Where does it not understand the nuance or depth of the question?
  • Consider assigning students a process statement (a paragraph that describes the process they used to develop their final product) to submit along with their assignments. How did they use generative AI, and what did they learn from it?
  • Incorporate AI into a drafting process: 1) Have AI write a first draft and then ask students to edit it or vice versa 2) have students write the drafts and ask AI software to edit it. A key question and skill may become teaching students to coach AI to generate quality writing.

Assignment Examples

Below, see examples of assignments Georgetown faculty have adapted and newly created to account for generative AI’s capabilities.

Adapted assignments

Original assignment Adjusted assignment
“Present and discuss a philosophical debate, concepts, or theories with your friends or family in the format of a podcast interview, email exchanges, a TED-Talk style video, or social media.” “Use ChatGPT to generate an essay. Identify strengths and weaknesses of the essay, identify any knowledge gaps and fill the gaps. Write a meta-cognitive reflection on whether and how using ChatGPT could enhance their learning.”

Sherry Kao, Philosophy

Original assignment Adjusted assignment
“Write a paper about the respective business models of two businesses that compete.” “I've asked ChatGPT this question and I want you now to critique what is said. Identify where you think it’s wrong. Identify where you think it’s right and improve upon what it’s done.”

Nicholas Lovegrove, McDonough School of Business

New assignments


Prompt ChatGPT to write a four-paragraph essay, at the college level, on an expert-level topic of your choosing related to this class. Write a companion piece analyzing each paragraph of ChatGPT’s essay. For each paragraph, you will comment on what it got right (and the source of that information), what it got wrong (with sources for the correct information), and where it may be missing important information. Submit your prompt, the ChatGPT essay, and your companion piece, as a single document.

Rebecca Helm, Earth Commons


Use AI tools such as or DALL-E to generate images of female rulers. Input the characteristics you believe female rulers should have.

Goal: Students will examine their perceptions of a female ruler, share their perceptions using visuals, and reflect on their biases on female leadership.

Key Questions: Can AI be biased in how it produces images of human figures? How can we take advantage of the convenience of AI tools without reinforcing biases in students’ learning?

Janet Gomez, Liberal Studies


Schneider asks students to directly interact with ChatGPT, and then asks: “Do you think it can be useful to your learning (not for cheating but for improving your understanding of concepts in a course)? Why or why not?” Read the full assignment here.

Nathan Schneider, Computer Science


Once Hensley revealed his lecture was AI-generated, he distributed the text of the lecture and asked students to consider 1) the issues with what an NLP suggested for a survey course and 2) how that raises questions about what ‘should be’ covered in an intro-level class.

He then asks students to consider the following sources:

Assignment: Study ChatGPT, test it out, and read up about large language models and AI writing technology. Write some stuff with it. Answer the question: Is it writing?

Nathan Hensley, English

For more examples beyond Georgetown, visit Yale's Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning page on faculty teaching examples.

Common Questions About Assignment Design

How are students using AI tools?

For years, students and faculty alike have likely relied on polishing tools such as Grammarly or even simple spell check. But as new tools become more seamlessly integrated into student workflows, their uses will continue to evolve. See this slide deck which captures several uses of generative AI tools.

How can I redesign my assignments and exams to maintain my learning goals for my students?

Ask yourself a few questions about your assignment's design in conversation with the capabilities of generative AI tools. See the Questions to Ask section to get started.