It’s a new year and people are predicting education trends for 2016. Transparency is one higher education strategy that will definitely gain momentum. As we’ve seen in 2015, transparency is already a major factor in successful education strategies such as feedback, formative assessment, student-centered learning, self-assessment, adaptive learning, and personalized learning featured in our blog.
Transparency basically means clarity. In education, transparency takes a number of forms:
- analysis of big data to support institutional growth and success
- demystification of the learning process so that we can understand why and how we are learning
- analysis of factors in learning for the purpose of improving achievement
At the institutional level, schools collect data on many factors that shed light on the nature of their student body such as race, gender, class completion, major selection, graduation, and retention. Analysis of this data helps them achieve their goals and make informed decisions on strategies such as funding, how to attract new students, and how to meet accreditation standards.
Input that feeds transparency at the student level focuses on answering questions such as: What do I have to learn? Why am I learning it this way? Are there other ways to learn? How well have I done so far? What is it about my approach that contributes to success or failure? What kinds of changes can I make to improve?
Transparency in the classroom isn’t a new education strategy. Many traditional instructors explain to students why they need to learn a specific subject or encourage students to think about how they approach learning. Some would even say that any instructor/student or peer-to-peer communication that sheds light on accomplishing learning during activities such as group projects and discussions represents transparency.
What’s changed is that we now recognize transparency as a powerful tool for enhancing learning. In an interview with Mary Ann Winkelmes, Director of the Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Project, she describes a pilot program in which faculty used basic transparency principles in making assignments more accessible and relevant. The study resulted in enhancing attributes that are connected to greater academic success:
…students reported gains in three areas that are important predictors of students’ success: academic confidence, sense of belonging, and mastery of the skills that employers value most when hiring. While the benefits for all students in the aggregate who received the intervention were statistically significant in a small way, the benefits for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students were significant and large.
Digital innovation has given transparency new meaning and scalability. In Acrobatiq courseware, faculty are able to aggregate student data on performance and learning process from one class or many quickly allowing them to make changes in real time. Learning objectives and ongoing feedback are transparent mechanisms that give students a strong stake in learning and motivates them to do better.
As we learn more about the impact of transparency in education, we’ll be able to make it even more forceful.