With the different strategies explored during remote, online, and flex modalities the past two years; it’s often the researched-based practices of what was previously known that reinforces the framework of good teaching. One of these practices is transparent assignment design. When students don’t understand the why or how a particular assignment will help them learn, they perceive it as “busy work” and fail to commit to the work and complete it successfully. Winkelmes’ (2016) research found that when faculty revised assignments to be clearer about their purpose, task to be perform, and criteria for success there was a significant increase in student success particularly for underrepresented and first-generation students.
Transparent Assignment Framework (Winkelmes, M., 2013)
Define the learning objectives in terms that will help students to understand how this assignment will benefit their learning. Show how these are connected with the learning outcomes for the course and how the specific knowledge and skills involved in the assignment are important to their future profession/ practice, etc.
Define what activities the student will be doing or performing. Provide guides and list any steps or recommended sequence of steps of what the student should be doing. specify any common mistakes to avoid. If there are pedagogical reasons for not sharing certain information about how to do the assignment, support student confidence and sense of belonging in college with a purpose statement like: “The purpose of this assignment is for you to extend your knowledge and you may feel confused during this growth, that is okay because you are testing your ability for problem-solving and ….”
Criteria for Success
Define the characteristic of what the finished product/project should be. Students should be able to access the quality of their own work so it will be helpful to provide them with criteria for how excellent work differs from adequate work. This can be communicated by providing examples, specific criteria, rubrics, checklists, etc.
Contact the FCTL if you would like additional information or assistance with designing Transparent Assignments.
References and Additional Resources
TILT Higher Ed – Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project. (Resources site created by Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes that includes examples and resources for applying the Transparency Framework).
Winkelmes, M., (2013). Transparent Assignment Template (PDF). Developed by Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes and shared via Creative Commons.
Winkelmes, M., et al. (2016). A teaching intervention that increases underservices college students’ success. AAC&U Peer Review. 18(1/2).