Think back to a time when things didn’t go as planned during a discussion section, a lab experiment, or an exam. Why didn’t the students perform as well as you hoped? Oftentimes, the answer to this question is because we didn’t clearly communicate our expectations to the students. We weren’t being transparent with our teaching.
Transparent teaching refers to making the learning process obvious or explicit to our students, and has many benefits in the modern college classroom:
- Provides greater opportunity for students to successfully meet expectations
- Promotes inclusive learning by demystifying the learning process for students who may be less familiar with college success strategies
- Provides faculty with opportunities for reflection on their assignments and how they align with the intended student outcomes
- Strengthens curriculum and assessment
Students learn better when they understand why they are learning something, and how they are learning it. Transparent teaching may manifest in your classroom in the form of detailed rubrics, discussions on how the science of learning informs your course design choices, or inviting students to take part in class planning. But perhaps one of the easiest ways to implement transparent teaching to promote student learning in the classroom is to share clear learning objectives with your students.
Course level learning objectives
Course objectives point to the higher level thinking skills and overarching student understanding that students will take away after completing the course. These course level goals are usually outlined in the syllabus and discussed during the first day of class, but are often forgotten throughout the semester. Reiterating these broader goals and linking them to the daily and assignment level goals can inspire students to find motivation and purpose in their work, especially in later parts of the semester.
Daily learning objectives
Discussing the day’s learning objectives at the beginning of each lecture structures the session and helps students focus on the learning because they know what to expect. A daily learning objective can start with the phrase, “After successfully completing today’s class, you will be able to…”
Assignment learning objectives
Having specific learning goals for individual assignments – worksheets, essays, lab reports, etc. – will make clear to the students what the purpose of the work is, as well as what you are looking for when you go to grade the assignment. This can make the student more invested and confident in their work, and makes giving feedback and assigning grades an easier process for the instructor.
In the spirit of transparent teaching, writing effective learning objectives requires clear, explicit language. Avoid using vague verbs like “know” or “understand,” by consulting the verb wheel based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The SMART tool is a well established method for creating learning objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Centering around learning objectives helps make our teaching more transparent, giving each student a greater opportunity to thrive. I encourage you to evaluate your current learning objectives – are they SMART? Are they clearly communicated to the students on a regular basis?
Think about how you communicate the goals of your teaching – on an assignment level, a daily level, and a course level – to your students. How could you articulate and communicate these goals more clearly to help your students learn?