Writing Transparent Assignments

As the semester gains momentum and you’ve graded students’ first major assignment, it’s not uncommon to encounter a deluge of emails from students who are puzzled about their grades. You might receive questions like “Why did I receive this grade?” or “How can I achieve an A?”. If this is becoming a familiar trend, then this is indicative of a need for clearer assignment instructions.

Revisiting your approach to assignment guidelines might be beneficial. The Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) framework offers a structured method to enhance clarity and eliminate any misunderstandings students might have about assignments.

What is the TILT Framework?

The TILT framework is designed to clarify academic tasks, thereby improving student engagement and the quality of their submissions. It focuses on cutting confusion about the expectations of each assignment, ensuring students are fully aware of what they need to do and why.

The TILT framework has three main sections: Purpose, Tasks, and Criteria.

Key Components of TILT


In this segment, clearly articulate the learning objectives of the assignment. The purpose section should detail what skills they are practicing and contain measurable verbs, so students know what you are looking for. If you need assistance with writing measurable objectives, check out the Lamar University CTLE blog post A Faculty Guide to Outcomes and Objectives. The purpose section should also explain how the assignment will enhance their academic journey and its relevance beyond the classroom. Discuss how the skills acquired will be applicable in professional settings or daily life, fostering a connection between academic tasks and real-world applications.


Here, you should provide a detailed description of what students are expected to do to complete the assignment. Offer clear instructions and guidelines. Also, consider mentioning potential pitfalls or reasons for withholding certain information, if applicable. Incorporating elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy can help ensure that tasks are both actionable and measurable.


This part involves outlining what a successfully completed assignment should look like. It’s beneficial to present various examples and, if relevant, discuss their real-world applications. Highlight the distinctions between exceptional work and submissions that merely meet the basic requirements. Including a detailed rubric and explaining how it will be used to evaluate submissions can further clarify expectations. Adding the rubric to Blackboard is beneficial for students as it makes evaluation criteria transparent and easily accessible. You can find additional information on using rubrics in Blackboard via their help documentation.

Post-assignment reflections are encouraged, prompting students to assess their performance and plan for future improvements. These reflections can be made part of the assignment or incorporated into course discussions.

By using the TILT framework to check your assignment instructions, you can foster a clearer, more supportive educational environment. This method not only aids in reducing confusion and student questions but also enhances the overall quality of student work, preparing them for both academic and professional success. For further insights into designing transparent assignments, consider reviewing the TILT detailed checklist.

Assignment: Write a Research Paper

Due Date: End of the Month

Instructions: Students are required to write a research paper about Pop Art and popular media of the 1960's. The paper should be at least 10 pages long and include references.

Assessment: Your paper will be graded based on content, writing quality, and research.

While this assignment specifies the topic and length of deliverable required, it lacks detailed guidance on the scope, key areas of focus, and the expectations for analysis or argumentation. This lack of specificity can lead to significant confusion among students, as they may not understand the depth of research, or the critical perspective required. Moreover, without clear instructions, students might not fully grasp the learning goals intended by the assignment, such as the ability to critically analyze art movements or to draw connections between historical events and artistic expressions. As a result, the assignment does not sufficiently support students in achieving a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter or in developing the intended academic skills.

The following is the same assignment that uses the TILT framework to increase its clarity. This assignment contains a clear purpose with the tasks being asked of students defined and detailed criteria given so students know what the instructor will be looking for.

Assignment: Write an Essay on the Influence of Television on Pop Art

Due Date: End of the Month


This essay will explore the significant influence of television on the development and expression of Pop Art. Understanding this relationship will enhance your appreciation of how media can shape artistic movements and cultural expressions. This knowledge is crucial for comprehending broader cultural and historical contexts in modern art studies.


Research Topic: Investigate how television influenced Pop Art artists and their works. Focus on specific examples where television's emergence and popularity are reflected in the themes, styles, and techniques of Pop Art.

Analysis: Analyze the impact of television as a cultural phenomenon on the art produced during the Pop Art movement. Consider how television shaped public perceptions of art and influenced artists’ approaches to their work.

Writing: Structure your essay as follows:

Introduction: Provide an overview of Pop Art and the emergence of television. Introduce your thesis on how television influenced Pop Art.

Main Body: Discuss specific artists and artworks that were influenced by television, citing examples and critical analyses. Explore the broader implications of this influence on culture and art.

Conclusion: Summarize your findings and reflect on the lasting impact of television on the art world and contemporary culture.

Formatting: The essay should be 5-7 pages long, double-spaced, using APA format for citations and references.


Your essay will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Content Relevance and Depth (40%): Shows comprehensive understanding of the influence of television on Pop Art.
  • Critical Analysis (30%): Provides insightful analysis of the interplay between television and Pop Art.
  • Writing Quality (20%): Maintains clarity, coherence, and grammatical accuracy.
  • Adherence to APA Style (10%): Follows APA formatting and citation guidelines accurately.

A detailed rubric is attached to guide you in meeting the expectations for each criterion. Examples of exemplary essays are available upon request to help you frame your analysis.

Additional Resources:

  • [Link to APA formatting guide]
  • Office hours for assistance in understanding the topic and developing your thesis.
  • Access to art history databases and digital archives through the university library.


Reflect on your research and writing process after submission. Although this reflection will not be graded, it is encouraged to help you synthesize your learning and consider its applications. Reflective questions to consider:

  • How has your perception of the influence of media on art changed?
  • What skills have you developed through this assignment that will be useful in your future academic or career pursuits?
  • This assignment aims to provide a clear and structured learning experience, enhancing your understanding of both Pop Art and the significant role of media in shaping cultural movements.

Tilt higher ed. TILT Higher Ed. (n.d.). https://tilthighered.com/