Materials Development Task 6: Purpose and redundancy

This is a new series of blog posts for teachers looking to become materials writers. It aims to help future writers explore topics and issues in writing, encourage deeper insight into the content of published materials, and promote a principled approach to materials development.

Think…

  • How much/often do you evaluate the materials you create?
  • Do you ever take a step back and consider ‘flow’ in your own resources?
  • Have you ever taught or created a resource that you felt (on reflection) included redundant stages?
  • How often do you think about the ‘why?’ and ‘what for…?’ of lesson staging?

Space at a premium

When writing your own resources you can afford the luxury of space. With published materials that’s not always the case. You often need to make every activity or every word, count – that’s especially true with coursebooks. The flow of coursebook materials can be highly prescriptive at times, as can the level of control when it comes to instructions, task types, extensions, info boxes… just about anything really!

This is a lesson stage from a published resource. There is (arguably) no redundancy in this lesson stage, as each question serves a clear purpose.

  • The questions all relate directly to the content of an upcoming video
  • The first two questions personalize the topic, using questions taken directly from the video.
  • The third question helps learners predict content in the upcoming video.

(This is my own kinda three Ps of a lead-in for a video-based lesson – prepare, personalize, predict. Might not work for all!)

I originally wrote five questions for this section, then cut it down to three as some were redundant. Some of the questions in my lead-in to this development task seem redundant too…

Analyse

Source one print and one online resource from publishers (same or different publisher). Make sure they focus on the same generic topic (e.g. a coursebook spread/unit on ‘sport’ or ‘jobs’, for example).

  • Analyse the overall flow of each lesson – do you feel that any stages are redundant? Do you feel any stages have not been exploited enough? (Note: analysing accompanying notes will help)
  • Delve deeper – do you think any parts of each stage are redundant or lacking purpose. Train your eye as a teacher-editor! The resource has been published, but do you feel some content slipped through the net? Be brutal!

Reflect:

  • Was there much difference between the print and digital resources when it came to a) redundancy, b) breadth/depth/coverage?

Task

Look back at one of your self-made lesson resources, or make another. Annotate the handout to explain (in note form) the purpose of each stage. Consider whether any of the activities are redundant.

Reflect:

Do you think that when it comes to on-page materials, less is more? Can you think of reasons other than redundancy why less text- or image- heavy resources might be suitable?

PART 2

You should now have a lesson resource which you have analysed for flow and purpose – both at whole lesson and individual stage level. Your analysis will have been based on your existing assumptions about what effective learning looks like. The difficult thing here is to be honest with yourself – how do I know these things are effective? Where am I getting my evidence from? Etc.

Task

Choose two of the stage purposes you identified from the lesson resource. Make a table like this:

Complete each box for the two stage purposes identified. This document is personal to you – it is okay to be honest and admit what you know/might know/don’t know (see rough example!). The aim of the task is simply to check some of your own assumptions, and hopefully to become more informed. No pressure – take your time and add to your table whenever.

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