When implementing an instructional material during in-person instruction, teachers can adjust instruction, add instructional strategies, and differentiate instruction for their students. During remote instruction, however, teachers may not have as many opportunities to adjust instruction to meet their students’ needs. Therefore, the quality of instructional materials used for remote instruction is more important than ever.

Learning List has reviewed thousands of instructional materials, and we consider many factors in our qualitative reviews. In previous blogs we’ve written about considerations for selecting materials to support continuous learning and things to look for if selecting online materials.   This blog takes a deeper look at assessing the quality of instructional materials used for remote instruction.

Alignment to standards

To support student learning and achievement of grade level expectations, comprehensive instructional materials must be aligned to as many of the standards for the grade level or course as possible. The materials must offer learning opportunities that reflect the content, context and cognitive rigor of the expectations of the standards.

Supplemental materials must be aligned to the standards that are the focus of the instruction. For example, a reading material must, at a minimum, be aligned to all of the reading comprehension standards; a material that addresses fractions must be aligned to all of the standards that help students learn fractions. 

Engagement and Instructional model

Girl at computer

Students engage with the materials in a remote setting differently than they would in the classroom.  For example, students working in an asynchronous environment will have significantly less interaction with other students and with the teacher than their face-to-face peers.   This may cause students to feel stressed and disengage from the learning.

When students have limited opportunities to interact with classmates or teachers, it is important for their materials to provide active engagement. Instructional materials that support active learning offer a variety of activity types, choices in assignments and/or resources, and self-assessment. These materials also provide diverse opportunities to learn content, such as through videos, text, images, animations, game scenarios, or simulations.

Engagement is crucial for student focus for longer periods of learning in any setting and even more important for independent, remote learning.

Rigor

During in-person instruction, teachers may provide instructional rigor by designing challenging tasks, collaborative groups, and projects. When students are learning remotely, their instructional materials should support the same level of rigor. Materials designed with rigor in mind include questions, activities, and assessments that challenge students across a range of Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  Open-ended activities, simulations, and projects with rubrics to assist students in assessing their own work are often present in rigorous instructional materials.

Students engaged in remote learning have to rely on their materials even more than they do when they are in class. Therefore, the quality of the materials used for remote instruction is critical to the effectiveness of that learning experience. Alignment, engagement, and rigor are three criteria to focus on when selecting materials for remote instruction. Other important quality indicators include: scaffolding of instruction, differentiated pathways, and adaptions to support all students’ learning.

Considering these factors, how would you answer the question: “Do the materials you are using for remote instruction support a high-quality learning experience for your students?”