Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project

Transparent Methods

Transparent teaching methods help students understand how and why they are learning course content in particular ways. This list of options is adapted frequently as faculty participants identify further ways to provide explicit information to students about learning and teaching practices. Faculty participants usually employ one option from the list and students indicate the impact of this small change when they complete an online survey (taking about four to five minutes) at the end of the course. Please email to add your suggestions to the list.

Discuss assignments' learning goals and design rationale before students begin each assignment

Invite students to participate in class planning, agenda construction

  • Give students an advanced agenda (2 or 3 main topics) 1-2 days before class, and ask them to identify related sub topics, examples or applications they wish to learn about
  • Review the agenda at the outset of each class meeting, including students' subtopics
  • Explicitly evaluate progress toward fulfilling the agenda at conclusion of each class meeting
  • In large courses, a class committee gathers and contributes students’ subtopics to agendas
  • Inform students about ideas and questions to be discussed in upcoming class meetings

Gauge students’ understanding during class via peer work on questions that require students to apply concepts you’ve taught

Explicitly connect "how people learn" data with course activities when students struggle at difficult transition points

  • Offer research-based explanations about concepts or tasks that students often struggle to master in your discipline [See examples below including Bloom, Bransford, Gregorc, Light, Perry.]

Engage students in applying the grading criteria that you’ll use on their work

Share criteria for success and examples of good work (as above in “discuss assignments’ learning goals”), then ask students to apply these criteria in written feedback on peers’ drafts [See example 1 Persuasive Writing Scholastic; example 2 Biology Northwestern U.]

Debrief graded tests and assignments in class

  • Help students identify patterns in their returned, graded work: what kinds of test questions were missed; what types of weaknesses characterize the assigned work
  • Let students review any changes or revisions they made, and whether these resulted in improvements or not
  • Ask students to record the process steps they used to prepare for the exam or complete the assignment, and to analyze: which parts of the process were efficient, effective, ineffective

Offer running commentary on class discussions, to indicate what modes of thought or disciplinary methods are in use

  • Explicitly identify what types of questioning/thinking and what skills of the discipline your students are using in each class meeting
  • Invite students to describe the steps in their thought process for addressing/solving a problem
  • Engage students in evaluating which types of thinking are most effective for addressing the issues in each class discussion

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

Copyright © 2014 Mary-Ann Winkelmes.
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