Learning Materials

The What

Learning / Instructional materials is a broad term for materials used in classrooms to support teaching and learning. These materials may be printed or digital, free (e.g., Open Education Resources) or for purchase, and may include but are not limited to primary sources, literary texts, textbooks, workbooks, computer-based applications, various types of media, and classroom assessments. Materials range from an individual lesson to a comprehensive curricular program, and can be developed by teachers, education/outreach organizations, or publishing companies. Supplies and equipment also play a key role in students’ learning experiences in many content areas.

The Why

Purpose and Features of Instructional Materials

Curricular materials can support and empower teachers and positively impact student achievement (Chiefs for Change, 2018).

High-quality instructional materials should be:

  • content-rich and rigorous;
  • aligned to content-area standards, including the pedagogical vision of the standards;
  • accessible to all students to promote equity;
  • supportive of teacher professional learning, collaboration, and classroom instruction;
  • flexible, to allow for customization for local context;
  • designed to prepare students for college, career, and community; and
  • grounded in research and best practices for the content area.

The range of instructional materials used in a classroom should:

  • present content and skills through a variety of learning experiences;
  • allow students to demonstrate proficiencies in different ways; and
  • stimulate engagement by tapping into students’ cultures, sense of place, and interests.
Chiefs for Change policy paper: Hiding in Plain Sight: Leveraging Curriculum to Improve Student Learning. http://chiefsforchange.org/policy-paper/4830/

The How

Reviewing and selecting instructional materials

With the initial adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, HIDOE adopted core instructional programs. Going forward, schools will hold the primary responsibility for selecting and enacting all instructional materials.

Complex Areas may engage with schools in the materials selection process for purposes of consistency and vertical alignment, especially across transition grades. Schools and Complex Areas should consider the benefits, including teacher collaboration opportunities and student equity, of using a foundational base of materials across classes, grades, and schools.

Schools should develop the expertise to use review tools and protocols to select materials based on alignment to standards. The review process can include stakeholders who will use the materials (e.g., administrators, teachers, support staff, students) to build ownership of and commitment to the selected materials. In some cases, materials may not be fully aligned, but could be selected with the understanding that teachers would need to adapt the materials accordingly. In these cases, review tools can be used to guide the adaptation process. The key resources below include tools and protocols that can be used in selecting and revising instructional materials.

The goal is that teachers collaborate around the selection of instructional materials that emphasize primary sources, authentic field-based resources, rich and complex text, quality open source documents and teacher created and peer-reviewed materials. Students are provided access to an array of quality learning materials and are encouraged to identify additional learning resources to support their projects, research and tasks.

Open Educational Resources

One option when considering instructional materials is Open Educational Resources (OER). According to the Hewlett Foundation: “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” ("What Is OER?", Creative Commons).

OER are distinguished from free and digital curriculum because they can be modified and redistributed by anyone.

OER support the core values by allowing personalized learning through customizable experiences. OER can be quickly updated because they are digital files. Modifying OERs allow equity and excellence by making existing curriculum specific to learning needs. OERs can be selected, created, or adapted to foster connections to culture and place, could be tailored to focus on whole child educational needs and help Hawaii’s student to be college, career, and community ready. This attribute creates the potential for Complex Areas and schools to use curriculum that address learning needs specific to Hawaii’s students.

OER should be vetted using the same processes as print-published curriculum. Specific rubrics, such as those created by Achieve, provide helpful considerations, such as the degree and quality of how the OER interacts with the learner. As with other materials, schools must be critical consumers and should be cautious of author or publisher claims of alignment to standards unless the materials have been externally evaluated using appropriate criteria and rubrics.

A major consideration for all instructional materials is an appropriate alignment to the Hawaii Core Standards. OER can be aligned to Hawaii Core Standards, but also interact with and adapt to the needs of specific subgroups' needs, such as the language-acquisition needs of English Learner students. Although cost is a benefit as the materials are free, a caution is that some materials require the purchase of trade books or supplementary materials.

Use of Instructional Materials

Teachers and administrators should see instructional materials as one means to student achievement, not an end unto themselves. It is likely that no single product will fully meet the needs of a local school community; implementing instructional materials to meet the standards may require different strategies.

Schools may need to select a tightly-focused suite of materials. For example, a middle school may supplement an English textbook with local primary sources and trade books. Further, teachers as professional educators can be creative in adapting materials to connect to their students’ interests and sense of place. In a high school biology class, a teacher may center natural selection on Hawaiian honeycreepers rather than the Galapagos finches found in the textbook. Finally, schools can build upon existing instructional materials to honor student voice and support the development of the whole child.

Instructional materials should be implemented with integrity, i.e. for their intended purpose in standards-based teaching and learning, not necessarily fidelity. The goal is to use curricular materials to help students achieve standards, not to pace each page in a textbook, use every activity or component as written, or “get through” content.

Support must be provided to teachers for making sense of how curricular materials can be used with appropriate instructional techniques to implement standards-based teaching and learning. In this regard, a common set of materials within a grade level, course, or school can allow teachers to more easily collaborate, learn, and plan together.

References
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