Implementing Transparent Teaching Methods

Transparent teaching methods enhance student understanding and academic performance by clearly communicating the purpose, tasks, and assignment criteria. This clarity reduces confusion and anxiety, fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Students from diverse backgrounds, including first-generation and non-traditional students, benefit particularly as these methods level the playing field by making expectations explicit. By understanding the relevance and value of their work, students are more motivated and engaged, leading to deeper critical thinking and improved performance. Transparent teaching also fosters trust and respect, encourages metacognitive skill development, and provides a clear framework for targeted feedback, benefiting students and instructors.

 Transparent teaching methods help students understand how and why they are learning course content in particular ways. The following list of ideas is based upon the work of Mary-Ann Winkelmes, founder of Transparency in Learning & Teaching (TILT Higher Ed). organization.

  1. Discuss the learning goals and design rationale (i.e. why are we completing this assignment for this subject) prior to the start of each assignment or assignment sequence. Mapping out the competencies, skills, and concepts students will gain from the assignment(s) is an effective way to foster this discussion. Using this transparent assignment template on Blackboard is also an effective way of indicating assignment goals.
  2. In order to further promote transparent practices in the classroom, instructors may invite students to participate in class planning when appropriate. After reviewing directions for a particular assignment, students and the instructor may construct a rubric together; likewise, students may assist the instructor in mapping out a session agenda based on previously assigned content. Instructors should review class agendas with students at the beginning of the course and come back to the agenda at the end, pointing towards the next session topics.
  3. Winkelmes recommends gauging students understanding during the class session by utilizing group work that requires students to apply the concepts that have been taught by the instructor. Students may teach back key concepts to their peers, build sample review questions, or even create formative and summative assessment questions based on course content.
  4. Share theories of learning with students. Explain the key concepts of Bloom’s Taxonomy and map your assessments and assignments to the taxonomy. It can also be helpful for instructors to explain Carol Dweck’s concepts of growth and fixed mindsets, particularly before and after a challenging unit.
  5. Review grading criteria with students prior to assignment submission. Create assignments that require students to engage with rubrics and other scoring mechanisms, such as peer review projects. Using the grading criteria to assist their peers simultaneously allows students to reflect on their work and deduce how well it meets the grading criteria.
  6. Debrief tests and other assignments in class. Instructors can lead the class through a discussion regarding any patterns or problem areas in the assessment/assignment.
  7. Finally, instructors should maintain a running commentary about the class’s progression through the content, continuing to indicate what modes of thought are being used or how content matches up with disciplinary standards, etc.

Additional Resources

Bloom’s Taxonomy Quick Guide

Self-guided Checklist for Designing a Transparent Assignment

Using Clickers in a Large Classroom

Winkelmes, M. A., Boye, A., & Tapp, S. (Eds.). (2023). Transparent design in higher education teaching and leadership: A guide to implementing the transparency framework institution-wide to improve learning and retention. Taylor & Francis.

This list is based on and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) except where otherwise noted.TILT Higher Ed © 2009-2023 by Mary-Ann Winkelmes. To view a copy of this license, visit