Transparent design is a teaching framework and philosophy that Mary-Ann Winkelmes developed over the past two decades with the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) initiative. Originally meant for more traditional educators in academic settings, like high-impact practices, we’re bending the basic elements to fit supervising student workers.
For our purposes, transparent design means students and supervisors communicating in a way so both understand the “how” and “why” students are learning something.
How Does Transparent Design Help Students?
According to Winkelmes, there are lots of ways transparent design can improve student education. One example that feels particularly relevant, as many institutions are developing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practices, speaks to transparent design’s strength in helping first-generation students or students with unconventional learning styles:
Transparent instruction is an equitable teaching practice and an instrument of social justice that can help to close college achievement gaps. Historically underserved students benefit to a greater degree from transparent instruction, although the gains are statistically significant for all students we have studied. (Winkelmes, 2019, p. 2)
Even high-achieving high school students can struggle in college, largely because they have no prior exposure to thinking and working like an expert in an academic discipline… How might a new majority college student approach her first chemistry lab report or art history paper if she has never seen what a successful chemistry lab report or art history paper looks like? High school training might have prepared her to use reliable evidence to support her hypotheses or ideas. But how would she determine an effective way to use a chemical reaction or a fifteenth-century painting as evidence? (Winkelmes, 2019, p. 3)
The next chapters explain the core transparent design framework for a lesson: purpose, tasks and criteria for success.