Transparent Design

What is Transparent Teaching? What is the purpose of Transparent Design?

  • Transparency in teaching refers to “engaging teachers and students in focusing together on how college students learn what they learn and why teachers structure learning experiences in particular ways” (Winkelmes, 2013).
  • Transparent design helps students:

o Understand the purpose of their assignment

o Understand how their assignment connects to learning goals and workplace skills

o Recognize the task of an assignment

o Identify expectations for an assignment

o Identify steps for an assignment

o Understand what success could look like

o Recognize criteria for success

o Understand how their work will be evaluated (Winkelmes, 2016)

What are criteria for Transparent Design?

  • Purpose: What skills will students practice? What knowledge will students gain? How are these skills and knowledge connected to course objectives, long-term learning, and/or workplace skills?
  • Task: What will students do? How will students do this? What steps should students follow or avoid?
  • Criteria for Success: Do students have a checklist of expectations? Do students know of how they will be evaluated (e.g., rubric)? Do students have access to annotated examples of what success could look like?

Why make assignments more transparent?

  • Students might report increases in academic confidence.
  • Students might report increases in sense of belonging.
  • Students might report increases in workplace skills.
  • Students might be able to make better connections among their assignments, student learning objectives, and workplace skills.
  • Students might have a better understanding of each assignment.
  • Students might have a better understanding of how their work will be evaluated.
  • Students might develop a better understanding of what success could look like.
  • Students might have more motivation in class.
  • Students might have less disputes about grades (Winkelmes et al., 2016).

How to make assignments more transparent?

  • Purpose: you can add details about the purpose of the assignment and connect to student learning objectives and long-term goals.
  • Task: you can include a stronger description of what you expect to do and how you expect students to do this.
  • Criteria for Success: you can include a checklist of expectations, a rubric,and a sample annotated paper with comments regarding what success could look like (Winkelmes et al., 2018).

References and Other Sources

TILT Higher Ed Examples and Resources (2017). Retrieved from

Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (2017). Retrieved from 

Transparency and Problem-Centered Learning (2017). Retrieved from

Winkelmes, M. A. (2016). Transparency framework 1 Purpose. Retrieved from

Winkelmes, M. A., Bernacki, M., Butler, J., Zochowski, J. G., & Weavil, K. H. (2016). A teaching intervention that increases underserved college students’ success. Peer Review: Transparency and Problem-Centered Learning, 18.

Winkelmes, M. A., Copeland, D. E., Jorgensen, E. Smedley, A., Sloat, A….et al. (2018). Benefits (some unexpected) of transparently designed assignments. The National Teaching and Learning Forum, 24, 4-6.

CTE Workshop

Rubric to Evaluate Transparent Assignments

Using Transparent Design to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness