Transparency and Problem-Centered Learning

AAC&U’s LEAP project—“Transparency and Problem-Centered Learning”—is designed to further existing knowledge about the relationship between high-impact practices and underserved student success.

Funded by TG Philanthropy and part of AAC&U’s Making Excellence Inclusive and The LEAP Challenge initiatives, this campus-based research project provided insights into the effects of problem-centered curricular designs, particularly integrative learning in general education programs, and transparent teaching practices on underserved students’ learning and success. 

Under the leadership of AAC&U researchers, Tia McNair, Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success, and Ashley Finley, Senior Director of Assessment and Research, the project examined the degree to which faculty intentionally and clearly articulate expectations for student learning and the degree to which faculty implement problem-centered instructional strategies to deepen student learning. The project built upon existing research on the role of transparency in teaching, high-impact practices, and the use of AAC&U’s Integrative Learning and Problem Solving VALUE rubrics for the direct assessment of student work to advance understanding of effective practices for underserved students’ development and success. AAC&U partnered with Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes of the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and AAC&U Senior Fellow for this research.

The following LEAP Challenge Minority-Serving Institutions participated:

  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • Heritage University
  • St. Edward's University
  • Queensborough Community College of The City University of New York
  • University of Houston-Downtown
  • Winston-Salem State University

AAC&U Project Staff: Tia McNairAshley Finley, Dawn Whitehead, and John Veras

Program Goals

This project provided insights into the role of problem-centered designs for promoting learning, particularly integrative learning across general education courses, for underserved students. The project engaged faculty in an inter-institutional learning community to develop promising practices for increasing transparency and clarity of assignment goals and learning expectations for students. The project also assisted campuses in developing their capacity to implement and to gather direct assessments of learning using students’ own work.