Focus Adult Learning on High-Quality Instructional Materials

By Hirsh, Stephanie; Crow, Tracy | The Learning Professional, December 2018 | Go to article overview

Focus Adult Learning on High-Quality Instructional Materials


Hirsh, Stephanie, Crow, Tracy, The Learning Professional


At Learning Forward, we are embracing an emphasis on the implementation of high-quality instructional materials.

As always, our work centers on building the capacity of all educators to ensure all students experience excellent teaching and learning. Because research has helped to clarify precisely where teachers need to increase their capacity for maximum impact, we are making an emphasis on instructional materials more explicit in our work.

We are making this commitment for the same reason we are making equity more explicit in our work: We want to prioritize and be explicit about the strategies and values that have the most potential to help students.

Two compelling concepts drive Learning Forward's emphasis on the importance of high-quality instructional materials as the most critical content for professional learning.

First, a growing body of evidence underscores the importance of teachers using highly rated instructional materials. You'll see various impact studies highlighted throughout this issue. We were excited to showcase the evidence in our recent paper, High-Quality Curricula and TeamBased Professional Learning: A Perfect Partnership for Equity. (To access the paper, visit www.learningforward.org/ perfectpartnership.)

Second, effective professional learning is classroom-focused, jobembedded, sustained, and collaborative.

NEED FOR DEEP LEARNING

While we sometimes call our emphasis on instructional materials a pivot, there is nothing new about focusing educator professional learning on content knowledge or aligning learning with a district's instructional framework, scope and sequence, or college- and career-ready standards. Learning Forward has published volumes of tools and practical insights on how to support educators in the implementation of student standards.

In fact, the Standards for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011) include an entire standard - the Outcomes standard - centered around the belief that educator professional learning, to be effective, needs to focus on the content students are learning and the materials in use in a system.

However, this kind of meaningful focus on what teachers teach still isn't the norm in every district. In our recent work with mentor teachers, we found educators hungry to offer deep learning tied to the instructional materials teachers are charged with teaching.

School systems expect new teachers to have content expertise and convey it effectively, yet the knowledge and skills can take time to develop. In fulfilling our obligation to support all teachers in having the capacity to teach content to every student, selecting high-quality instructional materials is an easy step to take.

High-quality educative materials offer built-in support. Not only do they provide teachers with guidance for semester and yearlong planning, but they also provide the sequence for teaching key standards, concepts, and skills. Such materials provide the rationale as well as the explanations behind those content areas where writers anticipate students may struggle or educators may benefit.

The support built into great materials is by no means sufficient, however. …

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