Improving the quality of curriculum can be 40 times more cost-effective at improving achievement than reducing class size (Lubienski, 2015).
Educational success frequently arises from the harmonious blend of devoted educators and potent learning tools. One pivotal aspect of a student's educational journey is the caliber of the instructional materials they're exposed to. High-quality instructional materials (HQIM) can profoundly shape teaching and learning outcomes (TNTP, 2018). The next two years are adoption years for science curricula across Oregon school districts. While there are many reasons to adopt HQIM in any classroom, there are three main reasons for bringing HQIM into Oregon science classrooms.
Why are High-Quality Instructional Materials Important?
“If I can spend the bulk of my time doing the actual art of teaching and leave it to someone else to do the heavy lifting of the curricular materials—to me that’s gold.” (Weisskirk, 2020).
In an evolving educational landscape, the tools educators utilize play an essential role in shaping student outcomes. The significance of these materials and the profound impact they can have on both educators and learners include:
- More Support for Teachers: As the cornerstone of the educational process, equipping teachers with HQIM helps save teachers prep time, giving more time for what matters: relationships with students and giving feedback. In science education, this means teachers can devote more time to sparking curiosity about the natural world and less on the minutiae of lesson planning.
- Enhanced Learning Outcomes: Studies, including "The Opportunity Myth," have found that when students engage with HQIM, they exhibit better academic achievements. In science education, this translates to students who can think more critically about scientific concepts, experiment with confidence, and understand the empirical processes that underpin our understanding of the world, all because HQIM facilitates a structured yet flexible learning environment. HQIM makes it easy for every teacher to implement, supports teachers in applying evidence-based pedagogies, and does the "heavy lifting" so that teachers can do what they do best, teach.
- Equitable Access for Students: HQIM levels the playing field, ensuring every student—irrespective of background or learning abilities—has access to robust and effective educational tools. This equitable access is particularly vital in science education, where every student deserves the chance to become a future innovator or problem-solver, contributing to a diverse and dynamic field.
What should Decision-Makers Consider when Evaluating Instructional Materials?
- Ensure Alignment with Standards: Validate that the material aligns with regional, state, or national standards, certifying content relevancy and quality. In some cases, this alone may feel like a lot of work. However, The Oregon Department of Education recently engaged in a rigorous evaluation process of science curricula to provide school districts with a shortlist of curricula that actually align with their standards and expectations for HQIM.
- Evaluate Usability and Flexibility: Resources should be intuitive for both educators and students and be moldable to various pedagogical strategies and student needs. This usability and flexibility are paramount; they ensure that whether it's a lesson, hands-on lab experiment, or a digital simulation, the resources should be customizable to the diverse ways scientific concepts can be explored and understood by students with different needs and interests.
- Consider Longevity and Sustainability: Beyond keeping up with the latest educational trends, selecting materials that will stand the test of time and remain relevant for years to come is crucial. Consider how often the materials might easily become outdated. Where discoveries and technological advancements rapidly evolve the body of knowledge, the content must be regularly updated to reflect the latest scientific understanding, ensuring students are always at the cutting edge of learning.
Adopting HQIM isn't merely a choice; it's a commitment to the future of our students and educators. By judiciously selecting materials, decision-makers can considerably uplift the learning environment and its outcomes. It is critical to prioritize quality, effectiveness, and inclusivity in their selections, ensuring the best experience for all involved.
Stile is incredibly proud to have been rated as a HQIM by the Oregon Department of Education. If you are interested in piloting Stile at your school or district, sign up for more information here.
Lubienski, S. (2015). NEPC Review: The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform: Do States and Districts Receive the Most Bang for Their Curriculum Buck?.
The New Teacher Project (TNTP). (2018). The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School Is Letting Them Down—and How to Fix It. https://tntp.org/assets/documents/TNTP_The-Opportunity-Myth_Web.pdf
Weisskirk, L. (2020, February 3). Why are high-quality curricula not reaching more students?. EdReports. https://www.edreports.org/resources/article/why-are-high-quality-curricula-not-reaching-more-students