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What are learning resources for teachers? How are they helpful?
1. What are learning resources for teachers? How are they helpful?
Learning resources are things that teachers can access to help them do some aspect of their job better as part of the professional development process (either pre-service or in-service). This is important because the quality of teachers has been highlighted as the most important factor in determining the effectiveness of a school system (Barber and Mourshed, 2007). If teachers have agency in this process, that is they are involved in and contribute to the design, they are more likely to be able to translate their experiences effectively into the classroom (Schieb and Karabenick, 2011).
Resources might be institution-specific, such as school behaviour or inclusion policy documents, assessment procedures, or information for new teachers. Some institutions have a library or part of the staffroom where there are books or journals about teacher development that teachers can use, and there are of course online resources that all teachers can access: articles about teaching and education, teacher websites like TeachingEnglish and Edutopia and social media groups about teaching.
People are also important learning resources. Experienced or specialist teachers (which might include you!) are a source of knowledge for new teachers or teachers wishing to specialise in a new area, and communities of practice such as local or national associations can provide useful professional networking opportunities. Students are also a great learning resource if teachers engage in a process of reflective teaching, seek student feedback and engage in assessment for learning, using student input to inform teaching.
2. How can teacher educators use these resources?
As a teacher educator you may well be viewed as a key source of knowledge and asked to recommend relevant resources to teachers or teacher education providers (e.g. a school director or university department coordinator). In order to make useful recommendations you will need to be aware of:
- the teacher’s profile (including who, what and where they teach, their experience and educational background)
- the learning need (what do they want to improve and why)
- the expected outcome (e.g. learning a new technique, behaviour change).
As well as being sources of knowledge for teachers, learning resources can be used by teachers and teacher educators to co-construct knowledge as part of continuing professional development. For example, observation sheets, feedback forms and action plans can be used during classroom observation and mentoring.
Learning resources can also be used as a basis for training. You might create a workshop based on techniques you found on a teaching website, or use a training course to develop the observation and feedback skills of other teacher educators.
3. Selection criteria
You may be working with existing resources for teachers available in your institution or online, or developing new resources. For existing resources, the selection process teacher educators follow to choose teacher learning resources can be compared to the way teachers select material for a lesson, making informed choices whether to:
- use the resource as it is
- adapt it to the teaching context of the teachers you work with
- replace it with something more relevant to your learning aim.
As part of this decision process you may want to consider the following questions, whether you need resources to recommend to teachers, to use in a workshop or training course, or as part of the mentoring or observation process:
Audience and relevance
- Who is the intended audience for this content?
- Is it appropriate to the teaching context I want to use it in? (e.g. preschool/primary/secondary/tertiary teachers, experienced/inexperienced teachers, teachers with/without access to ICT in their schools/classrooms, subject teachers)
- Is it aligned to the expected professional standards for teachers that I work with (and the evaluation system for these standards)?
- Is it culturally appropriate?
- Is the content easy to read and understand?
- Will it engage teachers?
For digital resources:
- Does it require sharing of personal details? If so, is this safe and appropriate for my learners?
- What do I/the teachers I work with want to achieve? How will this help me/them to achieve it?
- Will it support teachers with different learning preferences?
- Is the content differentiated? If not, can I differentiate it for teachers?
- Is it suitable for teachers who might have SEN or a specific learning disability which I am aware of?
For digital resources:
- What interactive features are available and what is their educational purpose?
Ease of use/preparation
- Is it free? If not, who will pay for it?
- Is it easy for teachers/for me as a teacher educator to use?
- How long will it take to prepare? If it will take a long time, can I/teachers use it again? For digital resources:
- Can teachers access it easily or does it require pre-registration?
- Does it require an online connection?
- Is there a useful help section?
- Does it load quickly?
- If I am going to use this in a workshop or training course, what’s my Plan B if something goes wrong?
- Can I monitor teacher use or progress of this resource?
Accuracy and authority
- Is the content up-to-date and accurate?
- Where does the content originate from?
- Who created it? Are they qualified to provide information on this topic?
- Is the material biased?
For digital resources:
- Does it contain any advertising? Does this influence the content?
For examples of specific checklists for the critical evaluation of print, audiovisual and digital resources see p.50-79 of this pdf. These relate to learning resources for students, but many of the same criteria apply to teachers as well.
4. How to organise learning resources for teachers
Once you start to work with teacher learning resources, it is a good idea to develop a system for storing and retrieving them. For offline materials you might have a filing system, store workshop activities in envelopes or folders and keep hard copies of documents for photocopying. These might be stored in a learning resources area which teachers can access too.
You can store online materials it on your institution computer system, if you have one, or you could use an online bookmarking tool such as Pinterest, Padlet, Google Keep or One Note on your laptop or phone. This is also a good way to advise teachers to organize learning resources they find online, and there is an active teaching community in Pinterest which can be a great source of inspiration when searching online for learning resources.
Whatever system you use, if you and the teachers you work with collaborate in updating and maintaining your files, folders and books you will soon find that you have a valuable, relevant and accessible set of teacher learning and professional development resources.
Barber, M and Mourshed, M (2007) How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. London: McKinsey & Co.
Schieb, L J and Karabenick, S A (2011). Teacher motivation and professional development: A guide to resources. Math and Science Partnership — Motivation Assessment Program. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI.
About the author
Claire Ross (@ClaireRossELT) researches and develops face-to-face and online training for English language teachers. She has developed the Teaching for Success suite of MOOCs and is a Lead Educator on the courses. She has been working in teacher education since 2005, mainly in the Middle East, training trainers and teachers. Her interests include pluralistic approaches, multilingualism and inclusion.