This is really important. My own experience with kids aging out of foster care and trying to go to college was that they’re missing a lot of soft knowledge on “how it all works” – the sorts of things that if your family all went to college you’d have picked up my osmosis – around the dinner table or at Christmas break when your older sister came home. Without how it all works being made explict they have a much harder time both getting into schools that really want them and when they’re there, succeeding.
As an increasingly broad and diverse cross section of students enters higher education, knowing those rules matters more than ever. Without them, students stumble. They might miss the point of a paper, drift during discussions, or feel overwhelmed or aimless.
via The Unwritten Rules of College – Teaching – The Chronicle of Higher Education. (subscription needed)
Here’s the key part (it sounds simple and even in my own training I’m hoping to incorporate some of this):
Professors who have signed on to the project consider three questions when creating assignments: what, exactly, they’re asking students to do (the “task”); why students have to do it (the “purpose”); and how the work will be evaluated (the “criteria”). Then the instructors explain those things to their students. That’s it.