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Jan 25 / otl

Small Changes to Assignments Mean Big Improvements in Student Learning

College can be a challenging place for students as they move from novice (high school) to expert (college and beyond) level thinkers.  Assignment design can be pivotal for students, especially in foundational courses, as they are introduced to the University setting; with students either grasping the assignment or faltering.  This make-or-break structure is particularly relevant to students from marginalized groups.

The Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) project from University of Nevada, Las Vegas provides a framework to design assignments that maximizes student success.  By making these small adjustments to the structure of assignments, researchers observed significant increases in students’ academic confidence and sense of belonging – both strong predictors of student success and increased persistence, with greater gains for historically underserved students.  These findings have been demonstrated across eight Universities across the country.

Overview of the TILT Framework

The TILT framework makes learning more transparent as students develop confidence and the core competencies necessary for academic success.  TILT is research-based and comprised of three component parts employed during assignment design:

  1. Purpose: Help students grasp the assignment by providing an understanding of what they should take away from the assignment. Focus on the knowledge and abilities they should still have five years from now.
  2. Tasks: Provide a clear set of tasks for students to accomplish.
  3. Criteria: Provide a rubric upfront that gives students a clear idea of how you will be evaluating the assignment and/or include annotated examples of successful past work to help students calibrate their approach.

How You Can Participate

All instructors are encouraged to join in!  If you are interested in learning more about TILT, please attend the upcoming TILT workshop with the Office for Teaching & Learning on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 1:30 PM in room 150 of the Purdy/Kresge Library; or contact to schedule a consultation.


Leave a comment below!  What other strategies do you use to make your assignments as clear as possible for students?