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Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

The Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education project (TILT Higher Ed) is an award-winning national educational development and research project that helps faculty to implement a transparent teaching framework that promotes college students' success. The Project's activities include:

  • workshops for both faculty and students that promote student's conscious understanding of how they learn,
  • online surveys that help faculty to gather, share and promptly benefit from current data about students' learning by coordinating their efforts across disciplines, institutions and countries
  • confidential reporting of survey results to faculty
  • collaborative research on students' learning experiences.

Since its inception at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2009-2010, the project has involved over twenty-five thousand students in hundreds of courses at more than forty institutions in seven countries. Now housed at UNLV, the project invites participants from all institutions of higher education in the US and abroad. In 2014-2015, the Transparency Project began partnering with the Association of American Colleges and Universities to focus on advancing underserved students' success in higher education.

The voluntary nature of the project allows any instructor to join at any time by signing up online. Instructors’ identities and information remain confidential, while students’ identities are anonymous.

  • Instructors invite their students to complete a 7-10-minute online survey about their learning experiences. The survey data complements traditional student ratings of instruction by providing a measure of how students view their learning experiences and learning strengths.
  • An individualized, confidential report offers real-time insights to each instructor about how to improve students' learning, based on analysis of the data gathered from their own students and other, similar students in comparable courses.
  • Optional workshops offer guidance for participating instructors on how to implement small teaching changes that will enhance their students’ learning, depending on the level and discipline of the course.


For institutions, results can include increased retention and completion rates. For students, results include statistically significant short-term and long-term learning benefits, and greater awareness of critical thinking skills. For participating instructors, individualized reports identify the one small teaching adjustment best suited to improving students’ learning for the specific population of students in their courses. The project’s publications identify which teaching/learning adjustments produce the best learning outcomes, specific to discipline, class size, level of expertise, and student demographics. Ongoing analysis suggests that transparent teaching/learning methods help to increase the success of underserved, underrepresented, first-generation and nontraditional students.

The Project’s 2014-2015 results (Peer Review Fall/Winter 2016) suggest that faculty can contribute to and complement institutions’ efforts to increase underserved students’ success, especially in their first year of college (when the greatest numbers drop out). In courses where students perceived more transparency, they experienced significantly greater learning benefits compared with their classmates who perceived less transparency around assignments in the same course. Specifically, students who received more transparency reported gains in three areas that are important predictors of students’ success: academic confidence, sense of belonging, and mastery of the skills that employers value most when hiring. While the benefits for all students in the aggregate who received more transparency were statistically significant, the benefits for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students were larger with a medium-to-large sized magnitude of effect. (This chart indicates the gains for first generation college students in our study.)

Important studies have already connected academic confidence and sense of belonging with students’ greater persistence and higher grades (Walton and Cohen 2011, Aronson et al 2002, Paunesku et al 2015), while recent national surveys identify the skills that employers value most, especially when hiring new employees (Hart 2015 and 2013). Our 2014-2015 study identified transparent teaching about problem-centered learning as an easily replicable teaching method that produces learning benefits already linked with students’ success.





Institutional Review Board Documentation

University of Illinois

University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Mary-Ann Winkelmes, Ph.D.
Coordinator of Instructional Development and Research
Office of Faculty, Policy, and Research
[email protected]

Copyright © 2014 Mary-Ann Winkelmes.
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