A division of Libraries and Academic Innovation

Improving Assignments through Transparent Design

Register Here

On March 24 from 12 noon-1:45 p.m. in Duques 152, Mary-Ann Winkelmes (PhD Harvard, and founder of the Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education project) will lead a workshop on the practice of designing and implementing transparent course assignments. As a result of this workshop, you will be able to intentionally assist students in “connecting the dots” and articulate why engagement in various course experiences matters to their success in the short and long term.

The workshop will be structured in a peer review format, whereby participants will serve as both a reviewer and reviewee. Each assignment will be peer-reviewed to determine whether the following aspects of the assignment selected are clear:

                                   Task:               What exactly, are you asking students to do and how?

                                   Purpose:         What skills and knowledge do students gain from doing it and how are these relevant for their lives?

                                   Criteria:           How will the work be evaluated, and what does good work look like?

To participate fully in the workshop, Dr. Winkelmes requests that you

  • Respond to this 2-question online survey before March 17, 2017
  • Bring one course assignment for review to the March 24 session

Numerous studies have demonstrated that increases in college students’ academic confidence and sense of belonging are directly correlated with higher GPAs and persistence and retention rates. 

These studies have also demonstrated that increases in students' academic confidence and sense of belonging could be achieved through teaching/learning interventions. In a study conducted by Winkelmes (2013), transparency—engaging teachers and students in focusing together on how college students learn what they learn and why teachers structure learning experiences in particular ways—was identified as a teaching method that showed promise for improving students’ educational experiences in college. According to the study, in courses where students perceived more transparency as a result of receiving the transparently designed assignments, they experienced significantly greater learning benefits compared with their classmates who perceived less transparency around assignments in a course. Transparent teaching is an easily replicable teaching intervention that produces learning benefits already linked with student success. 

Our role as educators is to help students understand the why and how of student learning. Creating transparent assignments that help students understand this serves as a natural complement to other student support initiatives that are aimed at increasing student success. We hope you will join us as we continue the journey of exploration into improving the learning experience for all students at GW.  


To find out more about Dr. Winkelmes' work and the transparency workshop we encourage you to visit: http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Unwritten-Rules-of/233245 and https://www.unlv.edu/provost/teachingandlearning

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