Transparency in Teaching – Monica Vesely

As educators, we prepare and use many planning materials in teaching our respective courses. We sweat over learning objectives, we develop concept maps and we careful choose learning activities and assessment methods to best measure our learning objectives. We then consider the alignment of our course design components. After we have lovingly crafted our course, we launch it in the lecture hall or laboratory. And then we wait. We wait to see how our learning activities were received and how our students fared in their assessments and we wait to receive our course evaluations.

Sometimes the feedback we receive on our teaching is in line with our expectations, but more often than we would like, it is not. How could such meticulous planning result in such misunderstanding? How is it that the product of such hard work can be so poorly received?

Quite possibly, it is not the work we did but rather the work we did not do in communicating our intentions to our students. I do not suggest that we walk them through a course design workshop, but what I do suggest is that we telegraph some of our intentions. If we include a learning activity clearly suited to someone who learns well through reflective observation, we (as instructors) may wish to let the other students in the class know that we have also included activities geared at those who learn best through active experimentation (of course, we need not use this formal terminology in our explanation). This simple act of verbalizing our intentions and alerting our students to the consideration we have for all learning styles may suffice to ward off grumblings at best and non-participation at worst. Likewise, in our assessment rubrics, if we highlight that the emphasis in the grading breakdown aligns with the course learning outcomes and curriculum expectations, we can avoid many perceptions of unfairness or unreasonableness. Many such opportunities exist within our planned course material to make our teaching intentions plain to the students.

Such efforts at transparency can serve as guides to students as we shepherd them through the course material. While taken individually they involve small amounts of effort and yet, collectively they can reap significant rewards if they help to bring students on board with our pedagogic plan. After all, don’t we all appreciate knowing where we are going and why?


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Monica Vesely

Monica Vesely is an Instructional Developer with the Centre for Teaching Excellence where she conducts teaching observations, facilitates the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), coordinates the Teaching Squares Program, and assists new faculty with their teaching professional development. In her focus on new faculty, she chairs the New Faculty Welcoming Committee, supports new faculty initiatives across campus, consults with new faculty to assist them with the preparation of individualized Learning About Teaching Plans (LATPs), facilitates workshops and builds community through various communications and social events. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Monica worked with the NSERC Chair in Water Treatment in Civil and Environmental Engineering, taught in the Department of Chemistry, and designed learning experiences with Waterloo's Professional Development Program (WatPD).

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