TILTing Assignments in In-Major Undergraduate Courses

TILTing Assignments in In-Major Undergraduate Courses

Rod McRae, Katherine B. Greeen, Jamie Brandenburg
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9549-7.ch004
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This chapter shares how the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) assignment design framework was investigated and implemented in face-to-face and fully online courses. After a brief introduction and literature review, the authors showcase two TILT empirical studies with undergraduate students. The two studies are shared in the form of vignette case studies. The first case study was an investigation and implementation of a TILT assignment in a fully online course. The authors will share the results from student surveys using the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project survey. The second case study investigated student performance on a key assessment, prior to TILTing the directions and after the key assessment was TILTed. Student results, as well as lessons learned and implications for college professors and administrators, are discussed. One component of the chapter describes faculty development on TILT-based assignments, along with perceptions of and benefits of implementing TILT in the classroom.
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Higher education in the United States of America continues to navigate the challenges associated with a long history of inequities in access and outcomes for students from historically underserved communities. Many colleges and universities are working to reduce the challenges for these students on campus; however, historically underserved, and underrepresented students continue to find that many institutions are becoming increasingly segregated by race and socioeconomic status (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2015; Carnevale & Strohl, 2013; Cahalan et al., 2021). Yet against this context of existing disparities, along with new ones, students from historically underserved communities are entering higher education institutions in larger numbers than in previous years (Grawe, 2018; Hussar & Bailey, 2018; Cahalan et al., 2021).

Entering college, though, does not guarantee the successful completion of a degree, especially when instructional practices that should foster student learning also function inadvertently as barriers to student achievement. Students from minority populations are more likely to disappear from rosters (Cahalan et al., 2021; Shapiro et al., 2018). These students also often enter college with many misconceptions about how to be successful in their courses (Gabriel, 2008; Habley et al., 2012; Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005; Persellin & Daniels, 2018; Pike & Kuh, 2005). These misconceptions and misunderstandings can hinder students’ ability to detect and respond successfully to the sometimes-opaque expectations of college education (Nilson, 2016; Weimer, 2013; Winkelmes, 2013a; Winkelmes et al., 2019). The unclear or vague expectations can also be termed the hidden curriculum of higher education, which means that information is often implicit and embedded within educational experiences, rather than information being explicitly stated and on the surface for students (Sambell & McDowell, 1998). As a consequence, then, many students who struggle to identify the vague structure of how a course functions or how to achieve its learning outcomes continue to uphold their misinterpretations of what college students need to do to be successful.

Especially in their first year of college, students from historically underserved communities often struggle to find a sense of belonging on campus, thus undermining their social connections and campus communal affinity (Felten & Lambert, 2020; Gabriel, 2008; Hausmann et al., 2009; Nunn, 2021). Consequently, these students are less likely to persist through academic challenges (Robbins et al., 2004). Discriminatory educational environments further compound these issues for underrepresented students, resulting in a detrimental impact on learning. For example, Aronson and Steele (2005) warned educators that the prejudices that shape people’s behaviors often produce decidedly negative consequences for academic achievement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transparency: As part of TILT, emphasizing the rationale behind instructional and/or institutional decision making clearly.

Assignment Design: The specific decisions by an instructor in the formatting, word choice, stipulations, and requirements for an assignment for a course.

Tilt: The acronym for Transparency in Learning and Teaching, a process that highlights the purpose, tasks, and criteria for success for instructional and/or institutional decisions.

Faculty Development: The process of professional training, guidance, and coaching that assists faculty members in enriching their teaching and research practices.

Academic Confidence: Student perceptions of their capabilities to achieve a desired academic outcome in their courses.

Student Success: The institutional structure to support preferred outcomes for students, especially in terms of their academic performance.

Equity: An awareness of fairness that recognizes that all people do not have the same access to resources and outcomes due to structural disparities.

Sense of Belonging: A feeling of affinity with a group of people who share a particular identity and/or set of similar experiences.

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