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The Role of Instructional Materials in Shaping Teacher Practice

In a recent op-ed appearing in The Hill, ThinkCerca’s founder and CEO, Eileen Murphy Buckley, describes the challenges she faced as a novice English teacher working at  Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, one of Illinois’ best high schools and Michelle Obama’s alma mater. Like many first-year teachers, she struggled with classroom management, planning relevant and engaging instruction, and mastery of her content area. She received sage advice from veteran colleagues, but she “confesses” that her strongest supports as an inexperienced teacher were the instructional materials she used in the classroom.

She writes:

So, there is my confession after all these years, but I make it to say that the products we use in schools matter. The quality of those resources matter so very much because they are what empower students, regardless of which teacher they end up with. The materials shape teachers and teacher practice, and they shape the teachers they raise through years of side by side work.

These products must answer to students and teachers as well as buyers — the admins and school boards who are the stewards of our future, our culture, our democracy. Products have material impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren — who will be caring for us and our country in the very near future.

Simply put, reading materials impact the quality of teaching in much more significant ways than you might know.

At Learning List, we understand the importance of high quality materials. We recognize that instructional materials influence how teachers teach as well as how and what students learn. And this understanding shapes how we review products.

Our editorial reviews examine the supports each material does or does not provide for teachers. Our reviewers explain whether teacher resources include background in content and pedagogy; provide pacing information, lesson plans, and guidance in differentiating instruction; and offer professional development opportunities and professional communities that facilitate collaboration and sharing with other teachers who use the same product. Our reviewers note when they feel a product is particularly appropriate for novice teachers. Such products include comprehensive discussions of the required content knowledge and pedagogy, and offer detailed, often scripted, lesson plans to support instruction. [Read more…]

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Trends in Advanced Placement: Increasing Supports for Students and Teachers

Increasing the available instructional supports for Advanced Placement (AP) teachers and students is one of the key themes that emerged from College Board’s AP Annual Conference 2017.  At the conference, the College Board announced that in 2019-20, it will roll out a new dashboard that enables AP teachers to create instructional materials tailored to their students’ individual needs. The dashboard will provide access to AP assignments, benchmark tests, unit guides, and related unit tests, as well as other materials to help teachers prepare their students for AP exams.

Learning List applauds the increased emphasis on supporting teachers in the College Board’s plan for new services. As our subscribers know, any material included on the College Board’s “Recommended List” must have been reviewed by Learning List. Our AP reviews consider how well each product is aligned to its respective course framework; the product’s instructional content and design, including supports for teachers; and the product’s technology specifications.  Taken together, our reviews provide a holistic view of a product that enables educators to understand whether a product will meet their students needs. [Read more…]

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What We’ve Observed: Trends in AP Materials

The College Board is engaged in several related initiatives to help teachers prepare a broader, more diverse group of students to succeed in AP courses.   AP courses in several disciplines are being redesigned and new courses are being introduced to create AP courses that strike a balance between depth of understanding and breadth of content coverage.

A critical next step in supporting AP teachers is ensuring that the instructional materials for AP courses address the knowledge and skills articulated in the new course frameworks.  To that end, the College Board partnered with Learning List™ to provide educators with independent, professional reviews of AP materials[1]. [Read more…]

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Use Learning List to Identify Gaps When Standards Change

As standards are revised, you may have to purchase new or supplemental instructional materials to align to 100% of the new standards.

When standards change, Learning List will review the alignment of materials already featured on our site against the new standards. The Learning List alignment reports will highlight changes in the standards to help you identify gaps in your current materials.

As publishers submit an updated correlation (i.e., identifying citations in their existing materials that align to the new standards), Learning List will verify those correlations, and the alignment reports will show citations in your existing materials that align to the new standards, as shown below.

Revised Standards

Contact us to find out how reviewing Learning List’s alignment reports for your current instructional materials helps to determine whether gaps exist before purchasing new materials.You may find that you can save a lot of money!

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Professional Goal Setting

Set GoalsDuring the first weeks of school most teachers and principals are working together to document learning plans that support continuous improvement in areas such as planning, instruction, assessment, and learning environment. Regardless of where you teach, these plans are likely to include:

  • Designing lessons that are aligned to standards
  • Using formal and informal methods to measure student progress
  • Using student progress data to adjust instruction
  • Using data to design lessons that are appropriate for diverse learners
  • Planning lessons that encourage higher order thinking
  • Creating opportunities for student engagement

Formal professional development is a great resource for learning, but you may have limited time and opportunity for attendance during the school year.  Job-related experiences and interactions with colleagues are often just as valuable as formal professional development because these just-in-time learning activities provide just what you need when you need it.

Speaking of which, as you focus on your learning plan for the 2016-17 school year Learning List can assist you in achieving goals for standards-based planning and instruction.  Learning List has reviewed almost 2500 of the most widely used instructional materials. As a subscriber using these reviewed materials you can access detailed alignment reports to use in PLCs, peer mentoring and coaching, and individual planning and research whenever you need it.

Training resources to help you use the alignment reports for the areas listed above are located next to your “Library” once you have logged into LearningList.com. These resources include short videos and step-by-step guides that put learning at your fingertips. Subscribers can also request webinar training on any of the topics listed.

Use your Learning List subscription to support your professional learning goals.


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Whether to Renew Online Material Subscriptions


Are you considering whether to renew a subscription of an online material? If so, the two-step process featured in this blog will help you analyze potential connections between student assessment results and the online resources you are using.

Jackie Lain, President of Learning List, has recently been featured on the “Getting Smart Blog” as a Guest Author.



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