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WRITE Tool Transparency


SWIRL WRITE Assignment Design Tool Part 1: Transparency and Evaluation Criteria

Students are more motivated to engage and likely to transfer skills when they clearly understand the relevance of the task.

Explicitly identifies student gains of completing the assignment in terms of:

  1. Skills
  2. Knowledge
  3. Meaningful impact on academic/professional/civic life

Faculty recognize that students come to their classes from different academic and social backgrounds and have different levels of exposure to university-level writing and research assignments. Transparent design is an explicit attempt to create more equity across students with different levels of academic experience by making assignment goals and expectations very clear. One of the goals is to enable all students to understand the purpose, tasks and assessment criteria of the assignment.

How does assignment transparency help students complete assignments and improve their work? By providing clear context for assignments and specifically identifying the purpose and goals of the assignment faculty help students identify what they will learn from the assignment and how they will be evaluated. Attention to clear language and distinction between the parts of the assignment also help all students understand what they are actually being asked to do. In adapting assignments to be more transparent faculty should examine their assignments and ask: Why the assignment is important? What will they learn? How does it fit into the overall context of the class? What tasks are necessary for completion of this assignment? What are the criteria for successful completion?

How does assignment transparency help you teach to assignments and to provide useful feedback when grading student work? A focus on greater transparency in assignment design should also promote more consistency across student work as the purpose, tasks and components of assignments are explained. Transparent design recommends the use of detailed assessment rubrics. Clear rubrics are useful to faculty in providing consistent, clear and developmental feedback to students.

  1. Identify the important information students need to contextualize this assignment. What do they need to know what to do to complete this assignment?

    ● Focus on purpose and what they will learn
    ● Be clear on what they must do for the assignment
    ● Include logistics but don’t make this the focus of the assignment
    ● Criteria for success: assessment using a developmental rubric

  2. Build your assessment into the assignment. The use of rubrics in which the major components of the assignment are identified, weighted and the degree of completion explained.

  3. Using the one-page TILT assignment design guidelines to think through the goals of transparency in assignment design by attending to purpose, tasks, and assessment criteria.

  4. Checklist for designing and reviewing transparent design assignments. The original template from UNLV and another version: a checklist developed by the University of Houston. These will help you consider how well your own assignment achieves the goal of transparency in purpose, tasks, and assessment criteria.

  5. Thinking about classroom activities that facilitate transparency in assignments:


  • Activities that workshop the assignment in small groups or by interviewing the assignment to understand what purpose and tasks students must complete.
  • As a group project in class follow the tasks of the written assignments on a similar topic to assignment so that students can practice the kinds of critical thinking required in the assignment.
  • A series of in class discussions on the different tasks of the assignment, and then bring those parts together.

To learn more about the “transparent design” approach:

The TILT website, hosted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas includes videos that will convince you how useful this approach is, scholarly discussions about this evidence-based approach to assignment design and examples of assignments using this method. This 7-minute video presents a useful overview of the project, rationale, and findings. For additional resources, please go to

Also, on the TILT website is an invitation to join faculty online to discuss assignments through their Transparent Tuesdays link.