A teacher’s time is precious – they need to be able to find the most useful teaching resources, as quickly as possible. But how do we help?
The Royal Society of Chemistry offers a wide range of services for teachers and lecturers, and we’re developing and improving all of them.
We support both specialist and non-specialist teachers of chemistry to enrich and enhance chemistry education in the UK and Ireland. And by supporting teachers we reach a wide range of students, enriching their lives and supporting the pipeline of chemists for the future.
What makes a useful resource?
Among our services are our teaching resources, including those we produce, and those we approve, produced by other organisations. We’re continually working to ensure they quickly give teachers what they want, given the challenging time pressures they face.
To do this, we first need to know what makes a teaching resource useful. Last year, through conversations with experts across primary, secondary and tertiary education, we developed some guidelines that describe this, summarising the attributes teachers tell us they need in a resource.
The next step is to make sure that everything we publish lives up to these guidelines. To do this we developed a quality assurance process. Any new resource we produce or publish is now assessed by expert, external reviewers, akin to the peer review process used by academic journals. Our reviewers are all education experts and have years of teaching experience under their belts, so they can identify which resources will be useful for teachers, and how.
We have resources from many different places, so we work to make sure they form a coherent and integrated collection, in which the value of the whole collection is greater than the sum of the value of the individual resources.
We are continually gathering feedback from teachers, through both formal research and day-to-day conversations. Teachers tell us they want to see clear relationships between our resources and the curriculum they have to teach. It’s also unhelpful if there are gaps or unnecessary duplication. So we’ve built into our quality assurance process the concept of the value a resource brings to the collection, as opposed to simply its value in isolation.
Editable and discoverable
Using our resource guidelines and quality assurance process, we’re currently evolving our resources and website to ensure they provide what teachers want. For example:
Teachers value editable versions of resources, so they can modify them. This could be to differentiate them for students working at different levels, adapt them to cover exactly the material they need or modify them based on the specific requirements of an exam board or region. We’re working to provide more of our resources for download in Word document form, instead of as PDFs, including our highly popular Starters for Ten quizzes, designed to embed key skills in advanced level chemistry. We’ve also made it easier for teachers to find our editable content, and to view licence information so it’s clear how they can share any changes they make with others.
Teachers value resources that are easy to find, so we’re working to consolidate as many of our resources as possible into the same place. For example, we used to have a lot of content outside of our main resources site in a wiki site. Because it was separate from the bulk of our resources, the material was not provided in context, and teachers couldn’t easily search it to find what they needed. We’re now integrating this content, and consolidating it into our main resources site.
Teachers value resources that provide good coverage of the curriculum. Our spectroscopy resources are some of our most popular, and over the next few months we’ll make sure they’re up to date and assess how comprehensively they cover this part of the curriculum. We’ll remove resources that no longer meet our quality standards and are no longer relevant to teachers, and we’ll commission and obtain new resources if needed. We’ll integrate our spectroscopy resources more closely with Spectroscopy in a Suitcase, our programme of school spectroscopy workshops, to ensure they fully support each other.
Spreading the word and building trust
Having useful resources is only part of the challenge. We’re also working to spread the word about them, and build teachers’ trust. We’re doing this through our regional network – working with teachers to help them use our resources effectively.
Teachers trust resources written and recommended by other teachers, so it’s important that we celebrate the teachers who author and review for us. We’re also starting to involve more teachers in producing new resources.
By being open about our processes, promoting our quality standards and listening to our users, we gain the confidence of teachers. As a result, we hope that many of those in our community of teachers, authors and reviewers will become our advocates, spreading the word on our behalf.
I love to hear of other teachers using my resources, often in ways I had not initially envisaged. It also prompts me to reflect on the topics I routinely teach, what the main focuses are and the potential misconceptions.
The access to the range of resources and the sheer base of expertise you can tap into is brilliant.
All the resources are great. They make it really easy to plan a lesson for the sixth formers. They’re there because they want to learn, so it’s the extension stuff that makes it that little bit easier. The starters for ten are really good, we’ve burnt through those!