Transparency in Learning and Teaching – a Universal Design Method of Making Assignment Expectations Explicit


Thursday, November 3


1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.


Lorie Fontaine


A transparent teaching framework can equitably promote all college students’ success. The Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Project at University Nevada Las Vegas demonstrated in a national study that transparency around academic assignments enhances students’ success, especially that of first-generation, low-income and underrepresented college students, at statistically significant levels (with a medium-to-large sized magnitude of effect for underserved students). Students who understand the purpose, tasks and criteria of an academic assignment before they begin to work on it (in comparison with students who don’t share that understanding) experience higher academic confidence, an increased sense of belonging, and greater awareness that they are mastering the skills that employers value, as well as higher rates of returning to college the following year.
Using the Transparent Assignment Template developed by Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes at UNLV, this session will review classroom assignments for purpose, knowledge and skills gained, task descriptions, and clarity of grading criteria. Dr. Winkelmes’ study showed an increase in freshman retention from 74% to 90% by adopting her method in just 2 assignments per class per semester. We will also discuss how this philosophy of communication clarity can be shared on your campus. As more students from diverse backgrounds attend college, our ability to question the bias of assumed knowledge and experience can reduce the barriers to education such students experience.

Presenter Bio(s)

Lorie began her social services career at Oregon School for the Blind, followed by work as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Oregon and an advocate for The Arc of Oregon. She switched to the disability services in Higher Ed field in 2007, for 3 years at Chemeketa Community College and currently as Director of Accessible Education Services at Willamette University.

Presentation Materials