10. Materials should be…


Materials should be …

As a principled basis for building a framework with which to create and develop materials, we spent some time in our second input session brainstorming what we think materials should be.

I was in a group of three, and after individually writing our own principles, we combined our ideas and selected what we considered to be the 12 most important. There was a fair amount of crossover between what each of us had written, and the points on which we differed led to some interesting discussion.  Here’s what we chose in the end:

Materials should be 1

The last point – materials should be important – was one that provoked a lot of discussion, as I felt strongly that it should be included, but needed to define more clearly what I meant by important.  Following the session I decided to doodle and mind map some ideas, in the hope that the process might help to decipher and distinguish why exactly materials should be important.  Here are my thoughts:

Materials should be important

Jade Blue 2016

What I find is particularly noteworthy here is the idea of materials having consequence for the learners.  If they’re of no consequence then they’re simply just filling space and time that could be put to better use elsewhere.

This raises some interesting questions about the relationship between teachers and materials.  Ever found yourself in need of a lesson and flicking through a folder in search of some materials?  You find something you think might be appropriate and that’s what you take into the classroom.  Teachers are busy and so regularly draw on materials to provide the input for a lesson – in this way the materials become the backbone, or the launch pad, of a lesson.

In these cases, are the materials more for the benefit of teachers than learners?  Because there’s a dichotomy between this role of materials and the ideal that I strive for – an approach to planning that I’ve been turning over in my mind since last year, when I learned of the following conversation between a colleague and a now ex-colleague of mine (a fantastic teacher and trainer who I greatly admire):


And this links back to the degree to which learners perceive materials as important, supporting the case for materials that are learner generated.

In looking around at principles that other groups came up with, this particular idea stood out to me:Materials should be digitally available

‘Materials should be digitally available’ – I’m really not sure how I feel about this.  If the reader has looked at earlier posts in this section of my blog, they’ll be aware of some of my reticence to jump on the EdTech bandwagon (see to Use or Refuse?A Note on Resistance, and The flipside).

I acknowledge that materials need to be made available to both teachers and learners alike, and given that we live in a digital age it logically follows that digital materials are automatically more accessible.  But what sort of materials are we talking about here? Published materials? What about royalties for the writers?

And what about learner-generated materials?  What about materials that emerge as a result of what happens in the classroom?  In these contexts materials are in some ways a record – descriptive rather than prescriptive, and highly personalised. In these contexts I have in fact made materials digitally available to learners: PDFs of IWBs, for example, but would be very hesitant to make them widely available.


2 thoughts on “10. Materials should be…

  1. Really interesting comments about ‘materials should be important’.

    It makes me think about to what extent we should be negotiating with students about what materials to use in the classroom. If we were to pre-establish the content of the class, maybe we wouldn’t find ourselves flicking through a materials folder. It’s not an ideal world though, and when students are coming and going it becomes more difficult be negotiating content on a continual basis.

    My opinion is that the teacher should have it as an imperative to always explain the rationale behind whatever it is they do in class; not only for the students, but also so it’s clear to themselves. Then, even if they have chosen something that they’ve just found in a materials folder, at least if they have a rationale behind it and they genuinely believe in it, it doesn’t have to be a waste of time. In fact, their rationale may affect the way they adapt it in class that in turn makes it important.

    • I agree with you that the teacher should be (prepared to) give learners a rationale for course content, but what are views on advance organisers (writing lesson aims on WB, for example)?
      I’ve found they can influence the way a learner approaches tasks so are sometimes better kept to the end of a lesson. And in a more dogme class it can be impossible to predict what focus will emerge. But in Evidence Based Teaching (see Petty 2009) advance organisers are shown to have an effect size of up to .78 – where .5 increases learner outcomes by one whole grade.
      Food for thought.
      As for negotiating – yes, with continual enrolment it can be tricky. But a needs analysis is vital and also time consuming, so ideally the two should be combined with Monday’s intake…?

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