Providing Clear Directions and Explanations

In this module, faculty learn how to provide a set of high-quality directions for complex tasks and the essential techniques for giving clear explanations of challenging content. In addition, the module includes techniques for obtaining student feedback on the clarity of directions and explanations designed to inform instructional adjustments when needed.

To satisfy the module requirements, practicing faculty must apply at least one technique, such as providing written directions, sharing multiple examples, or assigning a class-reaction survey.

This module is one of five modules under ACUE’s unit on Promoting Higher Order Thinking.

Advising Subject Matter Expert

Linda Nilson
Founding Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation
Clemson University

Module References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Berrett, D. (2015, September 21). The unwritten rules of college. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

BrckaLorenz, A., Cole, E., Kinzie, J., & Ribera, A. (2011, April). Examining effective faculty practice: Teaching clarity and student engagement. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. Retrieved from

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chesebro, J. L. (2003). Effects of teacher clarity and nonverbal immediacy on student learning, receiver apprehension, and affect. Communication Education, 52, 135–147.

Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (2001). The relationship of teacher clarity and immediacy with student state receiver apprehension, affect, and cognitive learning. Communication Education, 50, 59–68.

Cooper, T. (2007–2008). Collaboration or plagiarism? Explaining collaborative-based assignments clearly. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 17(1). Retrieved from

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Erickson, B. L., Peters, C. B., & Weltner Strommer, D. (2006). Teaching first-year college students (Revised and expanded ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Filene, P. G. (2005). The joy of teaching: A practical guide for new college instructors. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Gliessman, D. H. (1987). Changing complex teaching skills. Journal of Education for Teaching, 13, 267–275.

Lang, J. M. (2008). On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Metcalf, K. K., & Cruickshank, D. R. (1991). Can teachers be trained to make clear presentations? Journal of Educational Research, 85, 107–116.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, L. R. (1982). A review of two low-inference teacher behaviors related to performance of college students. Review of Higher Education, 5, 159–167.

Sorcinelli, M. D. (2005). Explained course material clearly and concisely. Retrieved from

Titsworth, S. (n.d.). Translating research into instructional practice: Instructor clarity. Retrieved from

Weimer, M. E. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. E. (2015, November 18). Are we clear? Tips for creating better explanations. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

Wieman, C. (2010). Basic instructor habits to keep students engaged. Retrieved from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia website:

Zull, J. E. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.