32 Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT)

Teaching Strategies: Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT)

  • Author: Elizabeth Harsma
  • Editors: Carrie Miller, Michael Manderfeld

Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) methods help students explicitly understand the how and why of the content, activities, and assessments in their courses (Winkelmes, 2014). The TILT methodology is an adaptable and feasible teaching intervention that addresses the need to support academic success for all learners (Winkelmes, et al, 2016).

Research on Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) demonstrates that small changes to as few as two assignments can increase academic confidence, sense of belonging in college, achievement, and retention for all students, with even greater benefits for underserved students (Winkelmes, Bernacki, Butler, Zochowski, Golanics, Harriss Weavill, 2016).

Three Criteria of TILT

Winkelmes (2017) identifies three key criteria in the transparency framework that are discussed with students before completing an assignment:

  • Purpose: In language and terms that students understand, the ‘purpose’ answers these questions: What skills will the student practice while doing this assignment? What knowledge will the students gain? How will these skills and knowledge help students solve real-world problems in their lives? How do the skills and knowledge connect to the course learning outcomes or goals?
  • Task: The task outlines the steps students should follow to successfully complete a high-quality assignment and identify any steps to avoid -or- if there is a reason to withhold this information, explain that the assignment is designed for students to engage in productive struggle and to invent their own steps to complete it.
  • Criteria: The criteria include a checklist or rubric that shares the elements of a successful assignment. Criteria also address what success looks like with annotated examples that apply the checklist or rubric to the assignment and/or asking students to apply the checklist or rubric to their own work in progress, either individually or with peers.

The following transparent teaching methods are suggestions for applying the TILT framework to your teaching. Winkelmes (2014) notes that faculty who participate in TILT research typically select just one option from the list to incorporate into their courses, but may incorporate more if they chose.

Seven Transparent Methods to Consider:

  1. Discuss assignments’ learning goals and design rationale (purpose, task, criteria) before students begin each assignment.
  2. Invite students to participate in curriculum planning, agenda construction. Before the topics of a unit of study or class session, ask students for sub-topics, examples, and applications of interest.
  3. Engage students understanding via peer work on questions applying concepts you’ve taught. Use structured small group discussion or polling throughout a class session.
  4. Explicitly connect “how people learn” data with course activities when students struggle at difficult transition points. Share common challenges and tips for effective learning in your discipline.
  5. Engage students in applying the grading criteria you’ll use on their work. Annotate an example assignment with the evaluation criteria; conduct a structured peer review on works in progress.
  6. Debrief graded tests and assignments. Help students identify successes and challenges in their work, evaluate their preparation process for future improvement.
  7. Help students “see” what modes of thought or disciplinary methods you and students are using. Explicitly point out and explain when these modes or methods are employed. Invite students to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of their thought processes for problem-solving in your discipline.

This section outlines just a few ways you might begin to think about adopting the aforementioned teaching strategy and the tools you might consider.

  • Transparent Assignment Templates: Transparent methods can be helpful for both faculty and students. Faculty can use the template to design more transparent assignments, while students can use the template to “decode” the three TILT criteria in their assignments:
  • D2L Brightspace:
    • Create pairs or small groups in the Groups tool and create a Group Topic in Discussions to create an asynchronous peer review activity applying criteria checklist or rubric to works in progress.
    • Use the Rubrics tool to create and share criteria for success on a given assignment. Associate the Rubric with a Discussions Topic or an Assignments Submission folder to automatically provide students with a preview of the evaluation rubric in advance. Use the Quicklinks feature in any textbox in D2L Brightspace to share a link to the Rubric with students in an Announcement or Content description or file.
    • Add strategic learning-to-learn feedback to Quiz questions. Add Assessment and Submission View options in Quizzes to provide students with adaptive practice quizzing and automatic feedback to inform a debrief session. Pair that feedback with a one-to-one Discussion Group Topic type for an individual/private reflection and debrief.
  • Media Space (Kaltura):
    • Webcam Videos. Create short videos to summarize and highlight key concepts, modes of thinking, and disciplinary methods used in class discussions or to debrief a test or quiz.
    • Video Quiz. Embed Video Quiz comments into short video lessons to help students test their ability to apply concepts, highlight learning-to-learn concepts, share pitfalls to avoid/common challenges, or what kinds of thinking or disciplinary methods being applied.
  • Zoom:
    • Breakout Rooms. Assign application questions and place students into break-out rooms to discuss questions together.
    • Copy and paste a text-based assignment example to the whiteboard and collaboratively annotate the example using the criteria for evaluation. Use the whiteboard to brainstorm sub-topics, examples, or applications related to an upcoming class session or unit of study. Copy and paste the agenda for the day on the whiteboard and cross off or check off items as they are addressed in a session.


Winkelmes, M.A. [MAWinkelmes]. (2017, May 8). Transparency and Problem-centered learning [Video file]. Retrieved from Transparency and Problem-centered Learning

Winkelmes, M.A. (2014). Transparent Methods. TILTHigherEd.com. Retrieved from https://tilthighered.com/transparency

Winkelmes, M.A., Bernacki, M., Butler, J., Zochowski, M., Golanics, J., Harriss Weavill, K. (2016). A Teaching Intervention that Increases Underserved College Students’ Success. American Colleges & Universities Peer Review, 18(1/2). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/peerreview/2016/winter-spring/Winkelmes


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Maverick Learning and Educational Applied Research Nexus Copyright © 2021 by Minnesota State University, Mankato is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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