In this episode, I talk with Mary-Ann Winkelmes, a longtime colleague in the world of educational development. Mary-Ann has worked at teaching centers at Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Brandeis University. She’s also the founder and director of the TILT Higher Ed project. TILT stands for “transparency in learning and teaching,” and the project works with instructors and institutions to practice transparent course and assignment design. With all the conversation in higher education today about rigor and flexibility, I thought this would be a perfect time to talk with Mary-Ann about transparency in teaching and learning.
As you’ll hear, Mary-Ann has a lot to say about the value of transparent design and how instructors can make small changes in their teaching that have outsized impact on student learning and student success.
TILT Higher Ed: Transparency in Learning and Teaching, https://tilthighered.com/
TILT Examples and Resources, https://tilthighered.com/tiltexamplesandresources
Transparent Design in Higher Education Teaching and Leadership, Stylus 2019, https://styluspub.presswarehouse.com/browse/book/9781620368237/Transparent-Design-in-Higher-Education-Teaching-and-Leadership
“A Crowdsourced Rubric for Evaluating Infographics” on Derek’s Agile Learning blog, https://derekbruff.org/?p=2081
Hausmann, Leslie R. M., Feifei Ye, Janet Ward Schofield and Rochelle L Woods. "Sense of Belonging and Persistence in White and African American First-Year Students. Research in Higher Education (2009) 50, 7: 649-669.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. "A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes among minority students." Science 331 (2011): 1447-1451.
Brady, S., Cohen, G. Jarvis, S., Walton, G. "A brief social-belonging intervention in college improves adult outcomes for Black Americans." Sciences Advances vol. 6, no. 118 (20 April 2020).
"The Weekend" by chillmore, via Pixabay
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See my website for my "Agile Learning" blog and information about having me speak at your campus or conference.
[00:00:00] Derek Bruff: Welcome to Intentional Teaching, a podcast aimed at educators to help them develop foundational teaching skills and explore new ideas in teaching. I'm your host, Derek Bruff. I hope this podcast helps you be more intentional in how you teach and in how you develop as a teacher over time.
In this episode I talk with Mary-Ann Winklemes, a longtime colleague in the world of educational development. Mary-Anne has worked at teaching centers at Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, university of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Brandeis University. She's also the founder and director of the TILT Higher Ed Project.
TILT stands for transparency in learning and teaching and the project works with instructors and institutions to practice transparent course and assignment design. With all the conversation in higher education today about rigor and flexibility, I thought this would be a perfect time to talk with Mary-Ann about transparency in teaching and learning.
As you'll hear, Mary-Ann has a lot to say about the value of transparent design and how instructors can make small changes in their teaching that have outsized impact on student learning and student success.
Thank you Mary-Ann, for being on the podcast. I'm very excited to talk with you today about transparency and all kinds of other topics.
[00:01:34] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: So much for inviting me, Derek. I'm really happy to be here with you
[00:01:37] Derek Bruff: Let me ask you a question. I, I don't know that I sent you this in advance, but it's a question I'd like to ask to get to know my guests.
Can you tell us about a time you realized you wanted to be an educator?
[00:01:48] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: Wow. I think that maybe goes way back. My parents were both educators. My mom. Was an elementary school teacher and sometimes would do substitute teaching. Right. And so it was that embarrassing moment when, oh no, it's your mom is the substitute teacher today but I really admired her for doing that cuz I know how hard it is to be a substitute teacher. Right. I was sort of worried for her and I admired the way that she was able to actually do something for us on a short term basis. My dad also is a retired golf pro. And he spent most of my growing up years teaching golf to people.
And that's a very different kind of teaching and learning, right? This sort of sports based visceral kind of physical learning, muscle memory kind of teaching. And I was sort of fascinated about how that worked, right? That when you kind of train yourself to do something and then you don't think about it too hard while you're doing it mm-hmm.
sometimes the results can be really positive. And that seemed so counterintuitive to me that you know, I think I overthought it a little bit, but that was, there, there were these sort of two models of teaching as I was growing up that were constant, kind of constantly present in the back of my mind.
as I was learning things. And then once I got to college, I was watching how my teachers were teaching things, maybe just because I came wired ready to do that. And by the time I got to graduate school, I noticed I was taking notes on, you know, one half of the page on, you know, what I needed to know about Italian renaissance, religious art and architecture.
And then on the other half of the page I was sort of making a. What, what we would now call a teaching observation, right? Making notes about what they were doing and what their strategies were so that when I would be teaching this later, I could note like what I should do and what I should not do.
So it's kind of been there in the back of my mind all along. .
[00:04:01] Derek Bruff: Yeah. Well, and I guess one, one connection I hear between your experience as a grad student and kind of watching your, your father's golf instruction is this awareness of what you're doing and kind of when is that helpful and when is that not helpful?
Cuz I think a lot about expert blind spots, right? Sometimes that the ability to do something very intuitively, without thinking can sometimes make it hard to teach that kind of thing. .
[00:04:28] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: I think that's so perceptive, Derek. And one of the things I try to encourage a lot is for teachers at the college level to help students be more aware of how they're learning to kind of boost students metacognition and that , you know, according to our research on transparent instruction, that does help students success when students are more aware of how they're learning what they're learning.
. And in fact, that's really all I mean by transparent instruction. We are teaching students not just the what or the content that is our expertise. . We're also teaching students about how and why they're learning this, right? How is it that they're learning? How do we hope and expect for them to be learning?
Why are we manipulating their learning experiences in the ways that we choose to do? And then how will students use this learning that they're having with us later in their lives after college? . So transparency means, or to me, transparent instruction means that that the why and the how are explicit parts of what we are teaching.
[00:05:48] Derek Bruff: So your project that you run is called TILT Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Ed, and you've said a little bit about what you mean by transparency. Can you tell us a little bit more about the project and kind of where it came from and, and where it's going?
[00:06:05] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: I remember putting a name to this first when I was at Harvard University working at the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and in a small faculty seminar that I was facilitating where we focused on different aspects of teaching and eventually produced a book called Voices of Experience.
That was their reflections about teaching. We talked a lot about pulling back the curtain in a Wizard of Oz kind of way to show students what our plan was be, what our secret plan was behind the scenes, that that made us kind of choose to teach things in certain ways or expect particular things of students.
And we talked about showing them the how and the why, and eventually the word that we gave to that was transparent, right? Transparency. And that, I think that word kind of stuck by the time I got to the University of Chicago and was working with faculty there. , transparency seemed to be the word that we were using more, most often to describe that
showing students the the secret recipes behind the scenes, pulling back that curtain. Coming out of those two seminars, the one at Harvard's Bok Center and the one at the University, university of Chicago Center for Teaching and Learning. I, and the faculty I was working with began to realize that we were onto something that was really making a difference for students success.
And we knew anecdotally, right? The people were describing things that were happening with students that hadn't happened before, and the kind of success that their students were experiencing felt different to them. And we realized that in order to convince others, anecdotal evidence is not enough. We needed some hard real data to work with, and I never entered this project with the idea that this would become a massive data collecting research enterprise.
, the only goal here is to spread effective teaching practices that help student success in a way that is good for all students and extra good for underserved students who have been less privileged prior to, to spread an equitable and effective way of teaching. But in order to do that, we needed
evidence and we needed data. And that's where the first transparency surveys were born was when I was working at University of Chicago. And then when I moved to University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign that's where we began to collect data on a large scale. And at this point we've got, I think we've surveyed students.
59,000, you know, students worth of courses, and it went with a we've got a fairly decent response rate, so we're looking at close to 30,000, you know, 28, 29,000 students worth of data, right? Students responses to 40 questions on a survey about their learning experiences in addition to some demographic
information about you know, who they are in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, first generation status, income level that kind of thing. And what we discovered from doing this research. We had this sort of explosive experience in about 20 15, 20 16 when I had the good fortune of meeting Carol Gary Schneider at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Ah, which now calls itself the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Carol introduced me to Tia Brown McNair, and to Ashley Finley. Together we worked on a project called Transparency and Problem Centered Learning, and we were able to work with a group of about 35 faculty from seven different minority serving institutions around the country.
Those faculty were working with something like 1800 total students in number.
what we asked those teachers to do, and I should back up and say that group was kind of intentionally selected to be a very broadly representative group of students. So we had all different kinds of minority serving institutions, including one that was located on Native American very large. We had a collection that ranged in size from very small to very large.
In type from two year to four year to research university, we had primarily residential. We had primarily non-residential student populations, urban and rural populations. And these were located all across the US so that by the time we had gathered our data, we had a, a collection of students and data that faculty could look at and say, oh, there are students like mine in this mix, so maybe this is worth a try.
Really, all they're asking for is a small change. It's not a heavy lift, and they're getting some pretty impressive results. So I'm gonna try it. And you know, sometimes we'll even ask people to try it to disprove it. Right? Because that's valuable to find out. Sure. In what circumstances does this work and in what circumstances does it not?
That's more information that could be more useful to faculty. But what we asked these faculty to do, this first group was we had teachers who were teaching a couple of sections of the same course in the same term. So we felt like we were as close as we could be to comparing apples with apples.
And we asked these teachers in one of those sections, just teach all the same assignments the same way you ever did. And in the other section, please pull out just two assignments and tilt them right. Change them in this small way to make them more transparent to students. and do this only twice in a whole term.
And the reason we asked them to do it only twice is we honestly wanted to see how little can you change and actually have a significant effect on students success. Because people aren't gonna try a massive change that takes up all their time. Right? They're much more likely to try a change that doesn't take that much time and what we discovered by the end was that those students who received the more transparent instruction had increased levels of confidence, sense of belonging, and metacognitive awareness of the skills that they were developing. And those happened to be not according to our research, but according to other researchers.
Confidence, belonging, and kind of awareness of what you're learning. Those are predictors of student success , right. Those have been correlated by people like Gregory Walton and Jeffrey Cohen with higher rates of persistence and higher grades. Or by Hausmann and Ye. Right. There are, there are numbers of publications that talk about how students.
When they have a higher sense of belonging in college, when they have greater academic confidence, they're more likely to persist, to gain higher grades and to stay in college for longer. Right? So that boosts their chances of graduating. And we aimed our study primarily at introductory level courses because we thought that is where we could have the biggest impact ultimately, on graduation rates.
If we catch students in the first year before. , they stop out. We can increase the number of students in their first year who persist to the second year and the third year and the fourth year. We'd have the greatest chance of success and we'd have the greatest chance of tracking some data as quickly as possible.
Because every institution reports their retention. You know, students. were in their first year, who came back for a second year that gets reported by universities in October of every year to the,
[00:14:49] Derek Bruff: they pay a lot of attention to that.
[00:14:52] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: Yeah. Yeah. So we knew that within a year's time we would see some kind of results.
And then I also worked for a number of years at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Where we were able to look at the longer term impact of this persistence, right? So where some researchers had looked at persistence throughout a semester or from one semester to the next, or sometimes from one year to the next.
We were able to track this into the third year of college and see slightly higher retention rates. 14 ish percent by the time they got to the third year I think it was actually 13.9% higher, right? Towards those students who received the transparent instruction versus those who did not doing
[00:15:39] Derek Bruff: which kinda amazing, right?
[00:15:42] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: It's kind amazing.
[00:15:44] Derek Bruff: Assignments that are are tilted. , they're not even changed dramatically. Right. Two assignments that, that have this extra layer of transparency on them, right.
[00:15:53] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: To have that kinda effect. So there's a little bit of a, of a hitch to this because, okay. What we ask for is, or what we ask for in these studies where we're talking about transparent instruction around assignment design.
We ask for people to tilt two assignments. by focusing with students before students do the work on three aspects of those assignments. The purpose, meaning what skills will the student gain, what knowledge will they acquire, and how will those be useful to them later in life? The tasks, how would students go about doing this work?
What should they. Sort of pursue what barriers might they avoid? And then finally the criteria sort of how will they know while they're doing the work that they're doing good quality work, right? That usually requires more than just a checklist or a rubric. Okay? That kind of requires teachers to show students examples of real world work in the discipline and have students kind of use the criteria that are in place for their own upcoming work to evaluate the samples of real world work in the discipline that the instructor is providing for them.
This is how students begin to understand by looking at multiple real world examples. , what does good work look like and how is it useful? Right? It's also a motivational impact, I think, to see what I'm learning now and how this could be useful in the real world. And the reason to show multiple examples is that
no single assignment that we give students in college would be exactly replicated in real world work. And so you'd need multiple examples to show, to sort of illustrate the different criteria that you have for the student's upcoming work. And we also wanna give students multiple examples because if we give students just one example of something that they've never done before, That counts for a big chunk of their grade.
That's almost like, like encouraging plagiarism. Right? We're giving them one life preserver.
[00:18:24] Derek Bruff: Right. They're, they're just gonna copy it in any way that they can get away with at that point, cuz they don't. They don't have a, a, a toolbox to work with. Right. They have one tool, so we're just gonna, yeah.
[00:18:33] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: So we offer students to go into an assignment, understanding what good work looks like and multiple ways to achieve success.
There's not just one way to do it. And we did have some pushback from teachers who said, well, wait a minute, what if I don't want to tell students how to do the work. What if I don't wanna tell them every action they should take from start to finish? What if I want them to figure that out?
In some instances there's a pedagogically sound reason for that. Let's say you're a performing arts teacher or a studio art professor, or , even an engineering teacher instructor might want for students to kind of come up with their own way of approaching something because they don't wanna stifle creativity, right?
Students might come up with some really great inspirational spark of genius of to do something differently or uniquely right? So we don't wanna, don't wanna eliminate that possibility. And the way that we address that with teachers who really seem to have a legitimate reason to kind of, kind of hide the ball in that way to, to not, or hold the cards close to their chest, to not show students how when.
When you've got a really good reason for doing that, why not tell students that that's what you're doing, and why you're doing it. Right. So the purpose of this assignment is for you to struggle and feel confused while you invent your own unique creative approach to the problem. Right. And when students know that going in.
then they're likely to think at that moment when they hit the wall or when they, they really hit, encounter a barrier and they're stuck and they're confused and they begin to doubt themselves. What they say is, oh, this is the confusion part. I know this is, I know that this part is, is right. This is what I should expect.
And I know that clarity comes later because that's the whole plan of this assignment is for us to feel confused for a while and struggle through it. That is so different from the experience of a student who doesn't know that we are producing sort of a big challenge for them. Because that student runs the risk of thinking, oh, wait a minute.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I shouldn't be studying Italian renaissance religious art and architecture. Maybe I should be studying something different, right? So partly the transparency preserves students' sense of confidence in this way, right? If you tell students upfront, like, I'm giving you a very difficult task here, that kind of takes us back to that question of that you asked earlier of what are some sort of transparent moves, right?
I think teachers often are doing. a lot of transparent instruction without really thinking about it, right? This is not very, very complicated rocket scientists kind of stuff. This is something that feels intuitive to faculty because it is consistent with their goals. They want for students to see how they're learning, what they're learning, and to be aware of that.
So some of the ways that teachers do this are, you know, in designing assignments and discussing the purposes, tasks, and criteria for those assignments before students do any of the work. Right. Other ways that teachers are using transparent instruction would be kind of connecting the content of the course with information.
that we have about how people learn, right? Talking maybe about Carol Dweck's worth work on fixed versus growth mindset and the difference that that can make in students success and persistence or talking about different learning strengths, different learning approaches you know, the trajectory of how you might learn something inside of a particular discipline.
Even we could even connect some of what we're teaching sometimes with neuroscience information about how synapses form in learning, right? Looking at work by, you know, Bransford or Zahl or there's a lot of information out there about how people learn that could help us make students more aware of why they're struggling at particular moments in their learning.
. Another way that I know teachers are using transparent instruction is almost coming back to that early sports metaphor that I gave us. Almost like a running commentary like a sportscaster would do. Watching a Football game or something. A running commentary on what kinds of disciplinary methods are being used in the moment, right?
, or, you know, when, when we're discussing something. What kind of, what mode of thought are we using in this moment? Right? So that students become more aware of how we are doing what we're doing when we're thinking things through in the classroom. Sometimes teachers will invite students ahead of time to contribute to planning the class agenda.
maybe the week before. So that students know ahead of time how we're going to do what we will do, and they can even contribute to how we will do it by suggesting particular subtopics of you know, the, the, the topic at hand. Right. I remember a massive nutrition course with over 700 students in it at University of Illinois when I was working there in Urbana Champaign.
And. , you know, students didn't have a lot of interest in what happens when a rabbit eats a carrot. But they had a lot of interest in what happens when a student eats an appetite suppressant, right? Or when a student is eating dining hall food with, you know, X percentage of carbs in it.
And so by contributing those tiny suggestions to, you know, what happens in the lecture on blood sugar, students could really become more they, they felt like they were shaping the course more, and in fact they were , but they were still learning the same basic content that that the professor was after.
So these are some of the ways that that we know of, that people are teaching transparently and we invite more. Right. These are all listed. We, we try to provide as many examples and as much data and sample assignments and everything. You know, pub Publications podcast. All of these are available on the Tilt higher ed.com website.
On our examples and resources page.
[00:25:33] Derek Bruff: So, one thing I wonder is some of those moves you mentioned involved telling students things about the how's and the why's, the, the purposes, the criteria but you also mentioned like having students maybe take a grading rubric that will be used for their assignment and applying it to
sample work, you know, by professionals maybe I, I ask about the telling because I think sometimes what I hear from faculty often is that students don't read the syllabus to begin with, and just telling them things doesn't, doesn't always seem to register.
[00:26:10] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: That's exactly right. And yeah, it often happens that.
The first time an instructor will tilt an assignment, they will build into it so much information that a single assignment could look like a syllabus, right? It's got so much content that this wall of information is that it's so overwhelming, makes it not transparent anymore, makes it not accessible and not.
Not like it, it, it makes it not feel relevant or doable. So what's really important here is to understand that transparency is a two-way street. It is not just faculty serving a he portion of transparency to the students. It is about showing students and, and encouraging students to learn how to parse the academic work for themselves.
And in fact, we've, we've developed this student version of the transparent Instruction template, right? Called the Unwritten rules, right? And and it is the student's version of this purpose task criteria template that we encourage teachers to use with students whenever they ask students to do some new type of academic work.
We then began to discover that we can do more than have students learn better how to parse academic. Students actually can teach us how to teach transparently in a more effective way. because when we show students, you know, here's the work that we expect you to do. Here's your upcoming assignment. Tell me what you see as the purposes, tasks, and criteria here.
How are you going to approach it? How will you do the task? , what will you look for when you're deciding if your work is effective while it's underway? What are your criteria? How would you describe those? How do you describe how the criteria apply to these three examples of work that I've brought you from the real world?
And students will show us where we've failed to make things perfectly transparent to them. And then, you know, we can almost run the, we can, we can make a mistake even there because if we decide, you know, once we've had this experience of discussing with students and they show us in real time how to make the work more accessible, more relevant, more fair, more, just more equitable, more transparent to them.
Before they go off and do the work, then we might think, aha, this assignment is now perfectly crafted to be transparent to next year's students. No, it isn't because next year's students are not these people In this moment in time, they're different people. At a different moment in time. And they will see different ways to make the work transparent for them.
So students become our real, our greatest allies here, and they save us a lot of time. Because we could struggle and learn more and more of you know, read and learn more and more about how students learn. But we can never make something perfectly transparent for a learner without that learner's help.
So they see we can save time by asking those learner learners sooner rather than later how we could make this work transparent.
[00:29:24] Derek Bruff: And so to think of it as a, as a kind of iterative process you do with students. I'm reminded of an experience I had early in my teaching career. I'd been teaching math for several semesters, so it wasn't right out of the gates.
But I remember I was teaching, I think it was a statistics course, and students had their first exam. , they did not do that well on, on average, and so I, I, I was using clickers and polling, so I actually polled the students. How did you study for this exam? Like what were the things that you did to try to study for this exam?
And I got a whole number of contributions from students, and then I got them to vote on kind of which ones, you know, were the most popular study strategies. And the thing that shocked me was that no one identified the study strategy that I would've recommended they use. Which is, you know, it's a math class.
Right. Find some math problems that are on topic that you haven't already worked. Work them and check your work. Like test yourself. Right. It was a kind of testing effect that I knew to be a really effective study strategy, but they were doing things like reviewing their old homework, rereading the textbook, right?
All these study strategies that actually since, you know, years ago when I did this, I've seen lots of research showing, having students highlight their textbook is not really a very particular it's not a good study strategy. And having them even look over problems they had solved before and gotten feedback on is less effective than, than having them test themselves, right?
But I had to ask my students. How did you go about doing this? And I had this moment that I think was a bit of a time for telling moment for them and for me, right? We both had this light bulb to say, oh, there's a whole nother way to do this, and I, they don't know about it, right? . And so anyway, that, that definitely informed how I talked with my students going forward in advance of the test, right?
I had this kind of hidden information. I didn't even know it was hidden until I asked my students about it.
[00:31:20] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: That is such a perfect example, Derek, of how you sort of came upon transparency in this after the fact way. Yeah. And now you've learned how to apply it before. So you had this conversation with students before they study for the test now.
And so this is why it feels like such a simple, small lift because it really is consistent with your goals. As an educator, and one of the things that we've noticed by working with faculty over the years is that there's a snowball effect to this, and you might have noticed this too, right?
Once you did that the first time, , you may continue to, to, to discuss with students ahead of time what their strategies might be to study for a particular exam. Right. And we noticed that, well, although we asked teachers in the beginning to do this twice, in a subsequent semester, they'll do it more often.
Or they'll find different ways to apply it. Right? If we ask them to start off by being transparent about the way they design assignments, then they'll be transparent about later on, about the way that they design an in-class activity for students to learn, or the way that they design their whole syllabus.
Some of them even apply this in a larger framework of how do whole department's courses fit together in some kind of transparent learning trajectory way. And we see people across all segments of academia using the Tilt framework, even as a strategic planning tool or as a management tool. . And we've described a lot of those ways of applying the transparent framework in our 2019 book, published by Stylus called Transparent Design and Higher Education Teaching and Leadership.
a guide to implementing the transparency framework, institution wide, to improve learning and retention. There are lots and lots of ways that people are using transparency and the effect snowballs. Right? Once you do this, once, you almost can't stop doing it because you begin to see how effective it is, not only for the benefit of your students, but for yourself.
Right? As an instructor, you save a lot of time, you become more effective, you feel more satisfied. , you revel in how excellent is the work of your students.
[00:33:49] Derek Bruff: Yeah. But I think there's also, I mentioned earlier this, you know, kind of expert blindness that we often have when we're teaching. And in my example, there was this study strategy that made total sense to me as someone who had been very successful in every math course he had ever taken.
And I just assumed that other people knew about this, right? But why would I assume that? And once I realized that not all of my students had thought about studying this way, it makes me question other assumptions I might be making about them. What are other areas where I am assuming they know how to do something or they know why we're doing something, but I haven't actually engaged them in a conversation about that to find out if they do indeed know why.
[00:34:29] Mary-Ann Winkelmes:
And we don't know what students are thinking exactly about the how and the why. Until we engage them in communication about that. But the experience that you had with your students where they chose study strategies different from what you sort of expected is very common, especially at the introductory level in college education because students come out of high school.
With a kind of set of strategies for learning and for succeeding in school. And even the most successful students will hit a kind of a roadblock once they become more specialized in different disciplines because the kind of strategies that you learn for high school success work equally across all disciplines.
when you get to college, each discipline has its own set of methods and terms and techniques, and the same strategies don't work anymore. So the strategies your students were using about review your notes and read the textbook, those worked. Those were those kind of standard across all disciplines.
Strategies that don't work anymore inside of a particular discipline as effectively. And so if the students have never done a particular kind of work. , how are they gonna know what that work looks like or how to do it effectively? Right? Like let's say we're asking students, I often ask students in an art history paper to analyze the physical composition of let's say a Madonna and child painting from the 15th century, right?
That word analyze and what I expect students to do there, like there's a whole process of visual formal analysis in studying art, but when they see the word analyze on the art history assignment and then they see the word analyze on their chemistry lab assignment, that means something completely different to analyze the physical composition of something in chemistry than it does to do that in art.
So how are students gonna know how to do either of those things if they've never seen it done before at any level? I think it is of expertise. It is very helpful for students to think about how and why are they learning what they are learning. I think sometimes teachers worry that when students become aware of the how and the why, the work gets too easy
for them, right? Are we spoon feeding students? Well, no. We're not delivering a pile of transparency to their door. It is an engagement. It is a process. It is a tool for their own analysis of how they're learning. But are we making it too easy? is a question I hear sometimes, and I think we've gotta look back at what do we mean by easy?
What is it that we want them to struggle with, right? Do we want them to what and what are we measuring, right? How do we measure their success? So if what we aim to measure is how well can a person figure out the secret unwritten rules to the discipline they've chosen before they need any help, right? If that's what we're trying to measure, then don't
talk with them about the process of learning, right? But instead, if what we're trying to measure is what does the students best quality work look like? What does the top of their achievement look like when they spend a hundred percent of their time doing their best quality work as opposed to. 50% of their time doing their best quality work after they've spent half of the time figuring out how on earth am I gonna do this work?
So it really boils down to what is it that we want to measure? And this kind of gets me back to that equity point because what we discovered is this, these, these strategies of transparent instruction are effective to a statistically significant and smallish degree for all the students we've studied.
But for the underserved students, the benefits are greater. This was the equity piece that we discovered at first with the American Association of Colleges and Universities studied with the minority serving institutions for students who are first generation in their family to attend college or low income students or ethnically underrepresented students.
These students, Experience greater benefits in terms of their increase in confidence in their sense of belonging in college and their metacognitive awareness of the skills that they're developing. The increases for all students are significant, but this, the benefits are greater for the underserved students, and this is where the equity aspect of this comes from.
And we wouldn't have known that if we had not doubled down to do this research. You know, 10 years of this unexpected research just to sort of convince people, oh, this is not a big, big project. This is not a big heavy lift. Why don't I give this a try?
[00:39:42] Derek Bruff: Well, this has been really great. We've gone in some really interesting directions, both in your, your history as a teacher and my history as a teacher.
If folks wanna get involved with, TILT in with your project. Either as individuals or maybe as teaching centers or in institutions, how can, how can listeners get involved .
[00:40:02] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: Well, the Tilt higher ed.com website has multiple ways to get involved. You can look at all of the examples and resources that we offer.
You can run the transparency pre and post. Student surveys, right? The beginning of term and end of term student surveys as an instructor. And you could receive a report that shows you, you know, how your students thought about their learning at the beginning of the term and at the end of the term.
And how much has that changed? What is their level of confidence in themselves as learners? Right? How much do they think this course helped them to acquire particular skills, skills that employers care about?
I am also working a lot now with institutions on larger scale projects. So large scale faculty development projects where we might be working across an institution's first year seminar courses, right? To tweak the curriculum to make it a little more transparent for students to see if we can boost the levels of success, increase retention rates, especially for underserved students whose retention rates nationally tend to be lower.
And so schools that are trying to make that equity difference in terms of their students success are often really attracted to transparent instruction because it is a small change that has a really significant benefit for students success. But on what we try to give away as many of the resources as possible on the tilt higher ed dot.
Website. And then certainly folks can contact me with any questions if you're not finding something on the website, because I haven't made it adequately transparent, say , and I need to hear from you so you can tell me how to make it more evident to you. You know the answer to the particular question that you have about transparent instructions.
firstname.lastname@example.org is a great way to get in touch with me as well. If you don't find what you need on the Tilt website.
[00:42:14] Derek Bruff: That's great. Thank you so much, Mary-Ann. This has been really delightful. Thanks for being on the podcast and sharing your research and your work with our listeners.
[00:42:22] Mary-Ann Winkelmes: Thank you, Derek.
It really was a pleasure.
[00:42:28] Derek Bruff: That was Mary-Ann Winkelmes, founder and director of TILT Higher Ed transparency in Learning and Teaching. I hope you found that interview as useful and practical as I did. Mary-Ann's comments about students needing to develop discipline specific study strategies clarified a number of my own teaching experiences and gave me a lot to think about.
Thanks to Mary-Ann for taking time to come on the podcast. If you'd like to learn more about Mary-Ann and the Tilt Higher Ed project, please see the show notes for links. I've also included a link to a blog post I wrote Many moons ago about having my students help create and then test drive a grading rubric for an infographic assignment. In the Tilt framework
I think it's a concrete example of helping students understand the assessment criteria for a new kind of assignment. This episode of Intentional Teaching was produced and edited by me, Derek Bruff. See the show notes for links to my website, the signup form for the Intentional Teaching Newsletter, which goes out most Thursdays, and my Patreon, which helps support the show.
For just a few bucks a month, you get access to the occasional bonus episode, Patreon only teaching resources, the archive of past newsletters, and a community of intentional educators to chat with. As always, thanks for listening.