. . . As an increasingly broad and diverse cross section of students enters higher education, knowing those rules matters more than ever. Without them, students stumble. They might miss the point of a paper, drift during discussions, or feel overwhelmed or aimless. But all students can thrive, Ms. Winkelmes says, if the tacit curriculum is made plain. When teaching is what she calls "transparent," students better understand the rationale for assignments and how they’re evaluated. New research on several campuses shows that students taught that way are more confident academically and feel as if they belong in college, which helps predict whether they succeed and remain enrolled. The data suggest one practice in particular — giving assignments — that, done transparently, has a significant effect on students. Here at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where Ms. Winkelmes is now principal investigator of the project Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, she has distilled that finding into a straightforward protocol. Professors who have signed on to the project consider three questions when creating assignments: what, exactly, they’re asking students to do (the "task"); why students have to do it (the "purpose"); and how the work will be evaluated (the "criteria"). Then the instructors explain those things to their students. That’s it.
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