A Foucauldian Perspective on Using the Transparency Framework in Learning and Teaching (TILT)

A Foucauldian Perspective on Using the Transparency Framework in Learning and Teaching (TILT)

Devi Akella (Albany State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9549-7.ch014
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Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) demands educators inform their students what, where, and why they are expected to learn certain subjective content and how they will be assessed. This allows students to understand the relevance and usefulness of the subjective content covered in their classrooms and what they should do to perform better academically. Yet providing such detailed specifications can restrict students' abilities to be original, critical, and imaginative. Students are no longer able to think out of the box and go beyond current knowledge domains to create new information to transform societies. This chapter integrates the ideologies of Foucault's disciplinary power to deconstruct the totalitarian learning aspect hidden within the three-dimension transparency framework of TILT and how it may hinder the growth and development of students within higher education institutions.
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Transparency in learning and teaching (TILT) as an educational design focuses on elucidating the entire learning process to the students, thereby granting them equal opportunities, to succeed academically regardless of their race and economic backgrounds (Leuzinger & Grallo, 2019; Winkelmes, 2019a). The transparency framework requires all educators to mention the purpose (why the student is learning that information), the task (how that activity needs to be completed) and criteria (how the entire activity will be assessed). This allows the students to comprehend the objective of different course activities, types of skills to be acquired, instructors’ expectations and how the grades will be allocated. Transparency enables both the students and instructors to enter into a partnership agreement to maximize learning, student retention and graduation rates. TILT initiatives can be triggered by making a “small adjustment (or tilt) rather than a massive revision to offer students an honest look at the teacher’s rationale for what students are required to do, with the goal of boosting all students’ self-awareness of their learning processes” (Winkelmes, 2019a, p. 3). These small tilts or transparency attempts have proven to be effective in increasing students’ self-confidence, self-esteem, resulting in better grades, knowledge, and skill assimilation (Leuzinger & Grallo, 2019; Wilkelmes et al., 2016).

TILT emerges as an inclusive, equitable teaching strategy which possesses the power to support and assist underserved, minority, first generation college students such as the African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, who belong to the lower economic strata of the society. These students might be the first from their families to attend college and therefore might lack an understanding on what college life might demand. They may have never seen or know how to write a laboratory report or a research paper etc. Transparency framework enables overcoming such hurdles, it takes up the role of a gatekeeper who integrates the student into the academic environment, shares information on how and where to start, and what is required to be accomplished to succeed in their academic work (Leuzinger & Grallo, 2019; Winkelmes et al., 2016; Winkelmes, 2019a). Transparent assignments, discussions and projects effectively unlock the “mystery” surrounding all academic course work by resolving all questions, doubts, dilemmas about how to do it or what is required, or not knowing what needs to be done (Winkelmes, 2019a).

Even though the social justice implications prevalent within TILT cannot be refuted and its potential to emancipate first generation students, with its ability to adapt to a variety of different teaching and learnings styles cannot be ignored. Yet simultaneously it cannot be disregarded that TILT, by making the entire expectations of the instructors and their learning requirements transparent, stifles creativity and originality on part of the student. Informing one’s students of one’s expectations by specifying minute details of the course assignments, providing the students with sample assignments etc. amounts to “spoon feeding”, which suppresses the creativity, originality, and imagination of the students. TILT develops preconceived images of “knowledgeable students” who churn out what is considered appropriate by the educator, in terms of content, knowledge, information and learning. Students are no longer encouraged to be original, or to critique and think outside of the box. Students who can question existing beliefs, philosophies, and concepts. Students who can go beyond what is known and has been discovered with the ability to critique current existing order of the society and its values. Thereby creating new knowledge for the society.

This chapter incorporates Foucault’s (1977) disciplinary framework to provide insights on how TILT framework despite its merits, ends up exercising power over learning, by limiting the boundaries of knowledge and learning, thereby controlling, and restricting the cognitive growth and development of students. The next section applies Foucault’s (1977) concepts of power and governmentality to deconstruct educational practices and curriculum development processes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT): Represents a pedagogical strategy encompassing a three stage-dimension framework consisting of (1) purpose—why we assign specific work to our students, (2) task—what we want them to do and (3) criteria—how do we want to evaluate them. The instructors are required to make small adjustments to their course activities to significantly improve the entire learning processes of their students resulting in better student performances, graduation completion, and retention rates.

Normalizing Gaze: An inspection or observation placed on individuals, to modulate and correct their behavior and actions according to the code of conduct specified by the society. This penetrating gaze has the power to create tension and anxiety within individuals forcing them to voluntarily conform to the expected societal rules and regulations.

Disciplinary Power: Is a type of power where control is not exercised through physical force but instead flows via disciplines, rules, regulations, and surveillance techniques.

Governmentality: Means the study of power that focuses on governing people’s conduct through positive means. Power is imposed via subtle and indirect methods, practices, procedures or through a network of institutions, to control the social conduct of individuals.

McDonaldization: Consists of the four principles of predictability, calculability, efficiency, and control associated with the fast-food restaurant McDonalds which have proven to be effective in dominating and controlling workers in different sectors across the American society and the rest of the world.

Learning: Knowledge or skills acquired through systematic study, practice, or experience.

Surveillance: Means keeping a close watch over other individuals and their activities. It is the process of monitoring individuals’ behavior and their activities for the purpose of gathering information and then using that information to manage, direct and control them. Surveillance techniques can include simple observation techniques to the usage of highly technically advanced electronic equipment.

Emancipation: Is the process of setting individuals free from all types of legal, social, and political restrictions. A process whereby individuals emerge as autonomous subjects capable of thinking on their own, making critical and original assessment of the reality around them.

Scientific Management: Refers to a theory of management proposed by Taylor (1947), which creates two groups, the labor and management, where management directs all the tasks of the labor. To ensure the labor does not deviate, the whole labor process is evaluated under the system of piece rates, judging the workers’ performance in accordance with quantity of output produced. There is a clear separation of conception and execution activities.

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