We all know that clear instructions can help reassure students and boost their self-efficacy when approaching the task at hand, but how do you use the instructions module to achieve this?
The more common elements are:
Placing it in context of previous assignments, in case of a series. You can recap the relationship to past lessons, information covered in the course, or future relevance.
Providing a rubric to provide more clarity on learning outcomes and expectations
Less common but worth considering may be:
Use of exemplars (detailed below)
Another thing to consider including in the introduction is an exemplar, so an example of a piece of work. An exemplar is designed to provide students with an increased understanding of the particular skills, content or knowledge needed to succeed and to clearly illustrate the criteria and standards set. This could be an exemplar of previous exemplary or proficient student work or an example piece constructed by the instructor.
Generally providing exemplars provides the following benefits :
When feedback is provided too late for students to learn from or implement, exemplars can be helpful in providing a sort of feedback early on, that helps students identify weaknesses, or missing points prior to handing in their assignment.
Bodies of evidence and research, suggest that students appreciate exemplars, specifically in helping them understand the expectations and learning requirements.
Transparency with students. Oftentimes rubrics and criteria are hard for students to understand or decipher, so providing an exemplar can help ensure that students really understand what is expected from them, is a more accessible and tangible way.
However, there are some things to take into consideration when providing students with an exemplar. First, constructing an example for students takes a lot of time, so a common practice is using previous students work. This does provide a more realistic example for students, but receiving their consent to use their work is then a lot crucial. Second, another worry that educators have is creativity and plagiarism, which using exemplars may impact.
 Newlyn, D. (2013). Providing exemplars in the learning environment: the case for and against. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 1 (1), 26-32.