Ignoring them could put publishing companies at risk
Teachers are selective — and very creative — when it comes to the materials they use with students. When presented with recommended — or even required — curriculum, teachers often modify the content they are compelled to use and find additional resources to supplement them.
- So, what types of instructional materials do teachers want right now?
It’s a question educational publishers grapple with.
Knowing the answer can help them create materials educators want to use with learners.
A recent survey and interview study of middle and high school English language arts and mathematics teachers conducted by Rand through the American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) Project can help educational publishers understand what teachers expect from educational materials. It shows that for educators, the best teaching resources are:
- Appropriately challenging for students
- Easy for teachers to use
Of course, engaging, challenging, and easy to use can all be defined differently. Here’s how teachers think about them.
Teachers described engaging materials as those that are neither frustratingly difficult or too easy for students. They must also be interactive and collaborative. Teachers particularly value games, quizzes, and hands-on activities. Materials connected to the real world and students’ interests are particularly effective in the classroom. For instance, using a soccer-related example to work through a math problem is a great way to bring arithmetic to life for many students.
In addition, teachers said they appreciate multicultural content reflecting diversity, equity, and inclusion because all students must be represented. They also believe the visual appeal of content is critical. Web and printed pages that are too busy or dense can cause students to lose interest.
Teachers prefer materials that progress in difficulty and have multiple entry points and paths for learners of different skill levels. Students must be able to build to a higher level of difficulty as they go through the content. Instructors said materials must be written in contemporary conversational English. The text should match students’ vocabulary levels. It should focus on appropriately mature topics and themes, not things that are too young or old for them. Teachers dislike materials that overwhelm students with too much information. In addition, educational content should include assessments that prove students gained knowledge and improved their skills.
Educators say they prefer resources that are easy for students to access. If not, learners give up and never engage with them. This seems to counter the preference of educators for multi-media materials and presents a challenge to academic content creators and publishers. Quizzes, games, and other digital activities are prone to technical difficulties or don't always load and work on all devices. This is an area where publishers may want to partner with a company like EdGate that can help build comprehensive multimedia educational solutions that are usable, accessible, and work. EdGate can also provide them with existing content that can enhance and support their materials.
Teachers also said they preferred solutions that offer different options for advanced students and those with educational challenges, including those learning English. Finally, educators noted that they want materials that are editable or easy to modify based on their teaching and student needs.
How publishers can give teachers the content they want
In the Rand survey and interviews, teachers consistently said they view themselves as more than passive curriculum implementers. They consider themselves active educational decision-makers. They often talked about making choices about the materials that support their classroom activity or their need to modify or supplement them based on their students, class, school, and community. The material must reflect student interests, the proportion of English learners, school priorities for the year, current events, and other timely things.
So how can content developers and publishers best support dedicated, knowledgeable, and independent educators? Here are five things you can do:
Give teachers the three things they want.
Make engagement, appropriateness of challenge, and usability top priorities when creating materials.
Get input from teachers.
Educators know what they want and need for their students, so it’s essential to include them in the materials development and review process.
Remember that diversity improves student engagement.
Teachers don’t want materials their students won’t connect with. While you’re developing content, ask yourself: How well do the materials address diverse students' interests and experiences? Consider creating a library or list of supplemental materials that support the interests, needs, education requirements, and cultural backgrounds of different learners.
Make materials easy for educators to customize.
Support teachers by providing guidance on how they can supplement and modify materials, so they are accessible to all students and support a range of educational styles and goals.
Educational needs are changing at a faster pace than ever before. That’s why it’s critical for publishers and content creators to connect regularly with educators. Whether at conferences or through brainstorming sessions, focus groups, or surveys, it’s important to hear from teachers about what they want next. It will keep publishers ahead of the curve rather than behind the educational eight-ball.
Of course, publishers always want to keep in mind that their pieces are compliant with applicable to educational standards, so teachers feel completely confident using them.
If publishers want to be successful today, it’s essential to not just pay attention to the educational administrators who traditionally made textbook decisions. Today’s teachers have louder voices and stronger opinions about what they use to support their classroom activities. Ignore them, and you put your publishing house at significant risk.