The most successful school leaders we work with understand that high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) improve student engagement and are a key resource in addressing schooling loss. They also know that materials, while a critical lever, are only one piece of the necessary elements for shifting teacher practice and improving student outcomes. In this blog post, we provide a brief list of things principals should know about high-quality instructional materials as they get started with adopting or implementing new materials.
When teachers don’t have access to strong materials, they search for them online, often leading to inconsistent quality and weak alignment to standards. And this search takes time, teachers spend 7-12 hours per week searching for and creating instructional resources, many of them not vetted. The time spent searching for materials takes away from other important responsibilities teachers have, including finding balance in their personal lives.
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Selecting Instructional Materials Begins with a Shared Vision.
Beginning with a shared instructional vision is key: An instructional vision communicates expectations for teaching and learning and provides a common language that can be leveraged across all classrooms. Questions to consider: What are your shared beliefs about the instructional experience for students and teachers? What do you expect to see when you go to classrooms? Are there non-negotiables that must be a part of the instructional vision?
While HQIM are necessary for strong instruction, they aren’t sufficient on their own. HQIM are complex and require skills and understanding at the district, school, and teacher level to implement well and with fidelity. Here are some considerations:
(A) Professional learning should focus on the idea that teachers and leaders need professional learning experiences that are grounded in materials they will be using with students and structured around repeated cycles of inquiry.
(B) Once professional learning has provided a common understanding and language for curriculum implementation, teachers should be provided with opportunities for collaborative internalization, planning, and practice that support the day-to-day implementation of HQIM. It is important that you, as leaders, share clear expectations around the implementation of the selected HQIM with your team. Without those clear expectations, we often see lower use of new materials or inconsistent implementations without fidelity. Whenever possible, consider how you can leverage existing structures to support internalization, such as PLC and collaborative time built into master schedules.
Finally, consider how you will monitor and assess the integrity of implementation. While our ultimate goal with leveraging HQIM is improved student outcomes, we know that is just one, longer term piece of data you have access to as a school leader. What other shorter term pieces of data tell a story about effective implementation? Consider opportunities to assess student work, which can identify gaps between what students are learning and the intended expectations of the assignments. Or, conduct walkthroughs asking curriculum-specific questions, and how you can capture student perception data.
The market for HQIM is growing increasingly robust, providing schools and districts with strong options to meet their unique needs. Through thoughtful planning and implementation, these materials can support profound shifts in teaching and learning for our students. If you're looking for a thought partner, we're here to help. Reach out to one of our consultants to get started.