The role of educational resources in improving learner outcomes

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The modern classroom is complex and subject to the influences of government policy, technology and change.

In a typical class, you’ll find a group of students who are all at different stages in their learning journeys and who have different abilities and learning requirements. So, it’s understandable that teachers require - and deserve - tools and resources which will enable them to deliver effective teaching and learning using an array of strategies and solutions.

Classroom resources can help to deliver personalised learning and reinforce effective teaching, adding real value to the teaching and learning experience.

Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, the art is finding ways to apply specific approaches and strategies found in these resources, to underpin high quality teaching. And of course, busy teachers need support in achieving this.Tim Oates, former chair of the National Curriculum Review, is a strong advocate for the adoption of resources by more UK schools:

"The evidence on high-quality textbooks is compelling, and leads to support, not undermining, of high-quality teaching. Supportive to teachers, pupils and parents alike, the emergence of a new generation of high-quality materials, based on international evidence, represents a huge step forward for schools in England."

- Tim Oates, former chair of the National Curriculum Review

What does international research say?

Recent international research studies compare educational systems across the world and consider what impact high-quality teaching and learning resources have on learner outcomes. The evidence shows a correlation between the usage of high-quality resources and higher rates of student progress.

  • High-performing jurisdictions which use high-end quality-assured teaching and learning materials are continuing to build rates of progress.
  • Lower-performing jurisdictions which are starting to adopt high-end quality assured teaching and learning materials are making greater rates of progress than previously.

The current UK government’s educational ministers have been vocal in their support for wider school adoption of educational resources, largely due to the evidence around student attainment and improved learner outcomes.  

“Well-focused, forensic study of these nations highlights the extent to which good teaching and high academic standards are strongly associated with adequate provision and widespread use of high-quality textbooks. I strongly believe that textbooks need to play an important role in pushing up academic standards.”

- Nick Gibbs, former Schools Minister

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

PISA is an international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. The UK’s PISA progress scores have been largely flat since 2010, but during the same period, high-performing countries have continued to make incremental improvements to their progress scores.

What does PISA mean for learner outcomes?

The data shines a spotlight on the following:

  • the fact that student progress across an entire country can be influenced positively
  • the tools and approaches affecting the changes
  • the cultural changes which occurred within schools and the broader educational system

Educational publishers look to this data to gain insights into how best to tackle some of the educational barriers faced on the domestic front. What’s clear from the PISA data is that high-performing countries really understand and respect the value resources provide and so look to embed them across the broader teaching and learning experience. The impact of this approach on student attainment and learning outcomes is demonstrated by the PISA scores.

The impact on teachers

Textbooks can support effective teaching by providing structure: they structure the learning, and they help structure the pedagogy.

If you're creating resources yourself, then you may feel you’re under additional pressure to get this right as well as all the content. In the busy world of teaching, textbooks can help give teachers confidence that these elements have already been considered, leaving them to add real value in adapting the teaching and delivery to best suit their classes needs. So how do publishers ensure the quality of their products?

Publishers’ tools and frameworks

The development goal for any high-quality teaching and learning resource should be that it can evidence the question, “How does this resource improve students’ outcomes?”

Educational publishers such as Pearson invest a lot of time, effort and money in the development of teaching and learning resources. This investment includes areas such as research and data, people expertise - such as working with leading specialists in their fields - and developing pedagogy and best practice.

The outputs from this are then applied to product development stages so the finished product successfully addresses the users’ needs and genuinely helps to improve learner outcomes.

Efficacy: measuring the impact of our products

In 2013, Pearson committed to report publicly on the impact of our products on learners. Since 2015, we’ve published over 13 efficacy reports, which will be audited in 2018 by a third-party company as part of our commitment to be open, transparent and accountable in our efforts to improve our products and services.

What does efficacy mean for UK schools and MATs buying our teaching and learning resources? Efficacy is central to the product development process and our product teams use an efficacy framework to establish how products and services can achieve their intended outcomes or results. Throughout the duration of the product lifecycle we consider how the product impacts on learners and how we can help learners to make progress. As a company, we employ a series of checks and balances to ensure that we’re accountable in products meeting these standards. Ultimately, Pearson’s teaching and learning resources are designed so that the learning is visible, accessible, deliverable and measurable.

How does this benefit schools and MATs?

Educational companies have the resources and capabilities to invest in:

  • research
  • pedagogy and best practice-led solutions 
  • partnerships with leading practitioners and educational experts
  • production and technology
  • quality assurance processes

The Teacher Workload Consultation findings concluded that: “Classroom teachers and middle leaders in both primary and secondary schools spent an average of 33 hours on non-teaching tasks. About half of this time was spent on two activities: individual planning or preparation of lessons either at school or out-of-school; and marking/correcting of pupils’ work.”

In order to be most effective while teaching, teachers need the time and space - largely taken up by planning tasks - to work through the ordering of the delivery, how to maximise the learning and to engage students in the learning.

The main benefit to using commercial resources is that all of the behind-the-scenes thinking around planning, delivery, engagement, pace, differentiation, and so forth, has been done. This means that teachers have the tools and frameworks required to help deliver more effective teaching and learning, and more of their valuable time to spend on teaching-related tasks - and those all-important learner outcomes.

Your experience

Have you found using published resources useful in your your school or group of schools? How do you think they’ve contributed towards helping you improve learner outcomes?

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