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Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning Transparent Assignment Design

Transparency in Assignment Design

Transparent assignment design refers to teaching practices aimed at making learning processes more explicit for students. A growing body of research indicates that incorporating elements of transparent assignment design, such as clearly communicating the purpose, task and criteria, into student assignments, can:

  • Serve as a ‘road map’ for students, providing them with a greater opportunity for successfully meeting the expectations of the assignment.
  • Benefit all student groups, with particular benefit to underrepresented student groups, in terms of achievement, retention and graduation rates, and students’ confidence and sense of belonging.
  • Demystify the learning process for students who may be less familiar with college success strategies.
  • Provide faculty with opportunities for reflection on their assignments and how they meet student outcomes.

Transparent Assignment Design Toolkit

The following resources are provided to assist faculty and departments seeking to design or refine assignments that more effectively support and assess student learning. ATL also offers collaborative assignment design charrettes and mini-workshops to WSU faculty and departments, adapted to meet goals, needs, and group contexts. For more information, see our Workshops page or contact us.

Sort by Resource, Topic or other column to find what you need.
TopicAuthorResourceDescription
OverviewATL - WSUTransparent Teaching and LearningA compact introductory handout, this PDF resource contains a brief description of the principles of transparent assignment design, supporting article citations, and links to video resources
Guiding QuestionsNILOAAssignment Design: Questions for Reflection and ConversationPDF with questions designed to promote faculty reflection on refining and improving assignments, developed through NILOA’s work with the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)
Assignment TemplateWinklemes, M.Transparent Assignment TemplateA PDF template that can be used as a guide for developing, explaining, and discussing class activities and out-of-class assignments
Assignment Design ChecklistWinklemes, M.Draft Checklist for Designing a Transparent AssignmentPDF self-guided checklist for developing/revising transparent assignments
Assignment Design ChecklistUniversity of WaterlooAssignment Design: ChecklistAnother practical PDF checklist for planning, implementing and evaluating assignments
Example AssignmentsWinklemes, M.Example Assignments (More and Less Transparent)A webpage with a bank of “before and after“ examples of assignments, representing a range of disciplines, improved through application of transparent assignment design principles

Additional Resources and Scholarship

Cook, L. and Fusch, D. (2016). One Easy Way Faculty Can Improve Student Success. Academic Impressions.

Hutchings, P., Jankowski, N. A., & Ewell, P. T. (2014). Catalyzing assignment design activity on your campus: Lessons from NILOA’s assignment library initiative. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Winklemes, M., et al. (2016). A Teaching Intervention that Increases Underserved College Students’ Success. AAC&U Peer Review. 18 (1/2).

Winklemes, M. (2016). Helping Faculty Use Assessment Data to Provide more Equitable Learning Experiences. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) Viewpoint.

Winklemes, M. (2015). Equity of Access and Equity of Experience in Higher Education. The National Teaching & Learning Forum. 24 (2).

Winklemes, M. (2013). Transparency in Teaching: Faculty Share Data and Improve Students’ Learning. AAC&U Liberal Education. 99 (2).