The red flags to look out for when selecting your classroom resource

  • 6 minute read
  • 24 July 2022

There are an abundance of classroom resources available to schools that range in price, implementation time, ongoing commitment, and impact. Textbooks, eBooks, and online programs are just some of the many options, making it hard to know at face value which will be the best fit to meet a school’s needs, improve student growth and make teacher workload more manageable.  

Researching potential resources takes time, which is one thing many teachers don’t have enough of and with the information available being quite contradictory, it can be hard to know which resources will actually have an impact with students. If we take a look at the elements that are essential in a resource we can see that it needs to be evidence based and proven to have an impact; implementation should be manageable; and, ongoing support is really important for long term success.

So it’s easy enough to agree on what a  classroom resource should include, but what about what it shouldn’t? What are the red flags we need to look for when evaluating resource options? We have uncovered the six red flags to add to your list when deciding your next classroom resource.

1. Students spend most of their time in front of a screen

Screen time is something that families and schools are constantly deliberating on. Does it impact on development? Do students find it harder to focus? Are there more distractions?

The simple answer is yes, spending too much time in front of a screen and not utilising other forms of learning and engagement can have a negative impact on students. 

Research suggests that the longer students in particular adolescent students spend on screens the higher chance of loss in interest and effects on mental health. Although technology does have its place in education as it allows students to access more accurate information, tracks their development and helps manage teacher workload, we still need to recognise that a good resource won’t have students sitting in front of their screens all lesson. . 

An effective resource will leverage the best parts of technology to support what research already shows us works in education and ensure students are exposed to a range of learning modes.

Maths Pathway, for example, leverages technology to support teachers in collecting granular student data to enable truly personalised learning. Which maximises the time that they have to teach and provides them with the information they need to run targeted lessons for their students. Students then benefit from small-group activities that pinpoint specific learning needs, whole class Rich Tasks to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills and optimise one-on-one sessions that deep dive into learning gaps and progress

2. Students don’t handwrite their maths work

Writing in mathematics enables students to create a deeper understanding of a concept they are covering. Research indicates that the connections students make while writing in mathematics classes make for critical thinking, developmentally sound, and more productive learners. Writing allows students to see the path they took to get to their conclusion and if the answer is incorrect they can go back through their steps to find the point they deviated. This is why we should be avoiding resources that don’t provide the opportunity to show working out and instead ask students to simply type answers into a computer. 

3. Limited customisation for your schools context

Every school is different just like every student is different. Giving every school the same resource will have the same effect as giving every student the exact same work. 

You will end up with a resource that isn’t meeting teacher or student needs, which creates more constraints instead of resolving the previous problems. So an important thing to look out for when deciding on a classroom resource is that it can be customised to your school’s specific needs. This could be in the context of the year levels you want to implement in or the requirements your state has for the curriculum. 

Look for resources that offer customisation and implementation support. Schools implementing Maths Pathway, for example, work very closely with their School Consultant who is available to support them from the beginning of implementation and throughout their entire Maths Pathway journey. 

Also make sure the resource understands how the curriculum works in your state, particularly in light of the new Australian Curriculum and consider how quickly it can implement the changes the new curriculum includes. At Maths Pathway, we have made it as simple as pressing a button once you’re ready for the new curriculum content to be applied to your students modules.

4. The resource is not evidence-based

A lot of online resources are gamified maths, which works to keep students entertained but unfortunately are not backed by any  research. This means their claims to improve student outcomes can’t be verified. Researching and selecting a classroom resource that will make an impact is a timely process which is why it’s important to avoid resources that can’t guarantee results and lean heavily towards the fun gamified aspect to draw students in. 

Despite the research into the effectiveness of gamified resources it’s consistently proven that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that there are any real benefits and only assumptions have been made around their impact. The design of successful gamification programs in education that can be sustained long term is still more of a guessing practice than science.  

A classroom resource that uses data and research to create content that supports deep learning in students is a must. Dr. Kripa Sundar has explored Maths Pathway’s content development and review process. In this report we can uncover the research into the effectiveness of the Maths Pathways Model that is guided by five key goals and executed through 6 checkpoints for rigorous alignment between insights from analytics and purposeful learning design.

5. It doesn’t focus on mastery or scaffold learning 

Mastery is the learning strategy that prioritises students gaining a high level of understanding on a concept before they are ready to move on. If students are allocated the appropriate amount of time based on their learning needs mastery can take place. 

An analysis showed that students in a class that had a mastery focus scored higher on a common final examination, attained higher course grades, and were absent less often than students in sections taught by more conventional methods. 

If we focus on mastery learning we avoid moving on when students still have gaps in their knowledge. This means that scaffolded learning can also take place. If students have strong foundations in their understanding it’s going to be more effective to build on that knowledge, which will eventually enable them to work more independently as they become more confident in their abilities and are able to self-motivate. 

Look for a resource that can clearly show you how it scaffolds learning and supports mastery. Students using Maths Pathway, for example, complete a test once a fortnight that is generated based on the work they have completed.

This gives students the opportunity to show their mastery of a topic so they can be provided with the next group of tasks to complete in the coming weeks. If they are not quite ready to move on to the next phase in learning they can have a second chance to master a concept. This promotes meaningful learning opposed to rote learning and reassures students learning and growth can take place at their pace. 

6. It doesn’t take into account teacher judgement

No one understands a student’s needs more than their teacher. Teachers are the experts in student development and learning which is why their judgement is crucial. No matter what resource is being used in the classroom it is essential that it allows for teacher judgement to take over when it’s necessary. 

Some resources don’t have the capacity to allow for this. The technology and design behind certain programs isn’t advanced enough to allow teachers to step in and override a decision when the program has overlooked important information. 

How does Maths Pathway allow for teacher judgement? 

  • Small-group activities: Teachers can use their judgement to group students who have similar needs. The system provides recommendations but the teacher has control and can utilise their judgement in selecting the right groups of students. 
  • One-on-one feedback sessions: Students set goals once a fortnight and teachers are able to make a judgement on which students need guidance in their learning based on their self-reflections.
  • Targeted Interventions: When a student is stuck on a particular piece of mathematics, the teacher can make a judgement on what types of support the student requires. Teachers can also allow students to move on to their next set of modules even if their test results indicate they have not fully mastered a topic. It might be clear to the teacher they have a solid understanding and the conditions they were tested under impacted their results. 

What resource can meet the needs of your school?

There is a growing need in the school community for a holistic approach to education that combines best-practice and technology to create a resource that supports teachers to deliver personalised learning whilst increasing growth and engagement in the classroom. 

Schools like Park Ridge State High School (PRSHS) have already unlocked this secret and are seeing results in student growth rates, managing teacher workload and creating an environment where students feel empowered to learn.  

 “Every student actually comes into the classroom with an expectation, a high expectation, this entire time, the whole 70 minutes is all going to be about learning and engaging mathematically with strategies, and with learning that’s fun.“ – Eli David, Maths teacher (PRSHS).

PRSHS also loves the flexibility and customisation their resource offers them. 

“We were able to say, hey, this is some of the stuff we need, in terms of the way our schools works, the way that the state school system works, are you able to help us to meet those requirements?” – Bridget Mallory, Acting HOD Junior Mathematics (PRSHS).

Bridget continued, “we were all provided with extensive professional development opportunities throughout the whole implementation process. Bec (our School Consultant) has really helped us to pinpoint the data that’s most relevant to us at our various stages of implementation.

At Maths Pathway we believe that if we want to change the way students learn and experience maths, we need to support teachers to increase their impact in the classroom.

Are you ready to start your journey to a truly impactful maths classroom?

Author: Maths Pathway
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