Transparent 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 resources below are intended to help faculty and programs seeking to design or refine assignments to be more transparent. ACE is available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs and faculty to design or refine assignments for learning outcomes assessment; contact us for additional information.

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Quick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Transparent Assignment Design (PDF)Resource intended to help WSU faculty and programs consider good practices for designing or refining assignments to be more transparent
Guiding QuestionsNILOAAssignment Design: Questions for Reflection and Conversation (PDF)Contains questions designed to promote faculty reflection on refining and improving assignments, developed through NILOA’s work with the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)
TemplateWinkelmes, M.Transparent Assignment Template (PDF)Template that can be used as a guide for developing, explaining, and discussing class activities and out-of-class assignments
ChecklistWinkelmes, M.Checklist for Designing a Transparent Assignment (PDF)Self-guided checklist for developing/revising transparent assignments
ExamplesWinkelmes, M.TILT Higher Ed Examples And ResourcesA 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. & Fusch, D. (2016). One Easy Way Faculty Can Improve Student Success. Academic Impressions.

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

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

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

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