Making Teaching Transparent

Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT)

Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT), is a set of teaching strategies that focuses on making transparent to students how and why they are learning and engaging with course content in particular ways. TILT's goal is to provide more concrete support for student success, particularly among students who may come from lesser privileged academic backgrounds. The TILT framework encourages faculty to be transparent about their course and assignment design choices to provide answers to questions students might have about their coursework:

  • Why am I learning this information – how will it help me achieve course goals in this course, future courses, or future careers? 
  • What is the specific task I’m being asked to do? What steps should I follow?
  • How will this doing this activity help me learn or understand course content better? 
  • What criteria will the instructor use to evaluate my work?

Research done by Mary-Ann Winkelmes (Winkelmes et. al., 2016) has shown that transparent teaching methods help students perform better in individual courses, and using transparent teaching methods can have a broader impact on students’ persistence in college: students taught using transparent teaching methods not only learn better, but they are also more likely to stay in college rather than dropping out.

That research also indicates these benefits are even more significant among underrepresented minority groups or first-generation college students, helping reduce achievement gaps. Winkelmes' research has shown that when faculty use any one of the TILT methods listed below, students’ evaluation of their academic confidence, sense of belonging, and skills valued by employers (communication, problem solving, etc.) are increased. Thus the TILT framework is not only a set of teaching strategies to help students learn; it is also a method to make courses more equitable, so that all students are able to succeed.

It’s important to note that using transparent methods to enhance student success can be effective even when they’re used occasionally, rather than permeating through an entire course. Winkelmes’ research includes data from faculty who used one of the TILT methods below on only two occasions during their course. Yet the benefits were still observed. So TILT methods enable instructors to make small changes in their teaching that can have a significant impact on the equity of their courses and their students’ success.

The most common methods of enhancing transparency in a course are:

  • Explicitly describing an assignment’s learning goals and design by specifying the purpose, task, and criteria for success
  • Gauging students’ understanding of course material during class using active learning techniques and Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs; Angelo and Cross, 1993), and explaining this purpose to students 
  • Explicitly connecting course activities with data on how people learn
  • Engaging students in applying the criteria that will be used in evaluating their work, using peer review
  • Debriefing graded tests and assignments in class, to explain where students seemed to struggle and how they might improve their learning
  • During class discussions, offering running commentary on the modes of thinking or types of disciplinary methods that are being used
  • Inviting students to participate in planning topics for class discussions and constructing agendas

Want to learn more?

To learn more about TILT, visit the TILT website or contact the CITL to work through the process of making an assignment more transparent.


Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques, A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Winkelmes, M-A., Bernacki, M, Butler, J, Zochowski, M. Golanics, J. & Weavil, K.H. (2016). A teaching intervention that increases underserved college students’ success. Peer Review, vol. 18 (Winter/Spring), no. 1/2. Available at: