Selecting teaching resources that meet student needs: a guide

Selecting teaching resources that meet student needs: a guide

Friday, 12 Jun 2020

The research shows that learning is optimised when students are challenged at the appropriate level, with tasks that are not so easy that they become disengaged or so hard that they’re disheartened and lose confidence, says ACER's Daniel O'Loughlin.

This involves two steps: first, determining each student’s needs and, second, finding the right teaching resource to engage them. Australian schools have a variety of assessment options available to them, so pinpointing student achievement levels using data has never been easier. But can the data also be used as evidence for teaching resource selection?

One of the things the dramatic switch to remote learning forced by the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is that there is an enormous range of teaching resources available online – of varied quality. The challenge for teachers is to identify the reliable, evidence-based resources that can be easily matched with student needs.

Both system and school guidelines will help you avoid missteps in resource selection. To augment them, here’s our guide to choosing activities, videos and other resources to help make your lessons fun and effective and, most importantly, challenge each student at their level of need.

Follow the official guidelines

Most state and territory education authorities provide guidelines for selecting teaching resources, and the relevant links are included at the end of this story. Additionally, individual schools usually have their own processes for teaching resource selection that are designed to take into consideration factors like the school’s duty of care to protect students from offensive material and involving the parent and caregiver community. Make sure you’re familiar with your school’s resource selection policy.

Ask your teacher-librarian

The teacher-librarian is an invaluable source of guidance and inspiration, as you will know if your school is lucky enough to have one. This video from AITSL shows the teacher-librarian in practice. It’s a sophisticated role that demands a detailed understanding of the curriculum and the skills and content requirements of each learning area, as well as an intimate knowledge of the resources available. AITSL applies its Professional Standards for Teachers 3.4 (Highly Accomplished) – ‘assist colleagues to create, select and use a wide range of resources, including ICT, to engage students in their learning’ – and, in doing so, underscores the purpose of the teacher-librarian: to engage students. Your teacher-librarian is an important factor in guiding you to the right resource to meet your students’ needs.

This manual from the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) was designed to help school librarians choose resources for their collections but the checklist and source guide on pages 11-15 will be helpful to all teachers.

Use data for resource selection

Schools have a range of assessment tools available to them and a well-designed, reliable assessment like PAT will tell you exactly where your student is in their learning journey. Knowing what a student is capable of is only part of the picture – challenging them appropriately with the right learning activity completes the puzzle. Simply following the curriculum will meet the needs of many students and there are a range of curriculum-linked resources from trusted sources available to you. We shared some of the most popular providers in this earlier story in PAT Insights.

But because the research points to a gap of up to five years in the attainment levels of students in the typical Australian classroom, it’s likely that some students at both ends of the spectrum are not being challenged appropriately by their year-level curriculum material. PAT data describes student achievement using bands that are directly linked to teaching resources in the PAT Teaching Resources Centre. If you need a reading resource to challenge a student at the lower or higher ends of the achievement spectrum, simply find the resources corresponding to the student’s PAT band and use your expert judgement to choose the right tool.

Equally, many students in a single classroom will fall into one or two PAT bands, making it easy to find a teaching resource that will allow for groupwork or think-pair-share activities.

Our 30-day no-obligation free trial is a great way to explore the centre’s contents.

Think outside the box for subject-specific tools

This PAT Insights story shares some popular sources of reliable, evidence-based teaching resources but don’t forget about subject area specialists.

Looking for:

  • Financial literacy teaching tools? The Australian Government’s moneysmart.gov.au has a dedicated teaching resources section, or check out the ATO's newly launched series of specialist teaching resources for K-6 students, Paying it Forward.
  • Environmental resources? Try not-for-profit Cool Australia for free, curriculum-linked resources that prioritise real world learning.
  • Inclusive resources for diverse learners? InclusionED is an online professional learning community for educators providing free, evidence-based teaching practices and tools to support students with diverse learning needs.
  • Drug and health education? Try Life Education. Their teaching activities and extensions are designed to be used in conjunction with in-school visits from their educators but also stand alone.
  • Resources for teaching students about primary industries? Primezone can help.
  • Human rights teaching tools? The Human Rights Commission’s teachers section is extensive.

State and territory education authority guidelines

Most education authorities provide resources for teachers on their websites, as you probably know. When it comes to selecting your own, some departments set out guidelines to assist you and links are included below. (Where there is no specific page dedicated to resource selection, a link to general information about available resources has been provided.)

Your teaching resource selection checklist

Does the resource…

Other factors to consider, depending on your school policies and teaching environment:

  • Does it promote inclusivity?
  • Is it likely to be controversial? Students and parents have the right to object to teaching materials (refer to your school’s or education authority’s policies for more).
  • Should it represent a range of views that reflect our diverse society, or form part of a broader program that achieves this aim?
  • Does it fit the teaching context? What are the diverse cultural, physical and linguistic needs of your school community and does it address these? ■

Find out more about the PAT Teaching Resources Centre or sign up for your free 30-day trial.

Read more about Daniel O'Loughlin.