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Ministry of Education.

Guidelines for integrating readymade commercial packages into teaching programmes

Evidence-based teaching | Guidelines | Case study | Further information | Flowchart of evidence-based approach

Most schools and teachers use readymade commercial packages to support instruction across the curriculum. The following guidelines are designed to help teachers and schools:

  • match readymade packages to learners' needs
  • use readymade packages effectively to support teaching practice.

These guidelines are based on research published in An Evaluation of the Use and Integration of Readymade Commercial Literacy Packages in Classroom Programmes, which evaluated the use and integration of the literacy packages available in New Zealand (for instance, Rainbow Reading, Jolly Phonics, PmPlus, The Sunshine Collection, and Tatari, Tautoko, Tauawhi). However, the guidelines are not restricted to any particular curriculum area or readymade commercial.

Evidence-based teaching

The guidelines are based on an evidence-based approach. This involves teachers using student achievement information to help them reflect on how they might make their practice more effective. Evidence-based teaching practice is about:

  • making teachers' moment-to-moment classroom observations and the inferences they draw from them more explicit and systematic
  • making effective use of more formal assessments to improve teaching practice.

(Refer to Timperley and Parr, 2004, for more information.)

Teachers and schools that act as a professional learning community continually collect, analyse, and interpret information to reveal where student achievement can be improved. This information might be school-wide, or it might relate to syndicates, classes, groups of students, or individual students. It could include both informal and more formal evidence.

Informal evidence:

  • observation
  • professional judgement.

More formal evidence:

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Identify students' specific needs

The essential first step in teaching more effectively is knowing exactly where to concentrate teaching efforts. Teachers must be able to identify specific needs if they are to help raise the achievement of students (or perhaps particular groups of students). To identify specific needs, teachers and curriculum leaders need to work together to examine student achievement data. They must then use that data to help them inform their practice.

Consider different ways to meet students' needs

Once a specific student need has been identified, schools then have to decide where to target their response - teachers, the school, or directly to the student. Whether the principal, literacy/numeracy leader, syndicate leader or the individual teacher is leading the decision-making, it is important the decision about how to best meet students' needs is made collaboratively.

One or more courses of action may be decided upon:

  • If a change in teaching practice is needed, then the school might provide teachers with professional development (through School Support Services, for example), or support by strengthening the school's professional learning community (perhaps by introducing peer observation/feedback).
  • If a 'system' need is identified, then the school might access management support (such as Leadership and Management Advisers or Literacy Development Officers) to help refine internal systems and processes; or it might access external support for the student (such as Resource Teachers: Literacy or Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour).
  • If additional instructional resources are needed to support teaching, the school might provide these in the form of readymade packages.

If providing a readymade package is an appropriate option to support teaching, then...

Identify the package that will meet students' needs

If providing a readymade package is an appropriate option to support teaching, the first step is to choose the best package for the purpose. There are likely to be several readymade commercial packages available. It is important to remember that the best package might already exist within the school, but is perhaps not being used as effectively as it could. There may be several reasons for this:

  • it is not used widely with all the students it might benefit
  • it is not matched well to existing teaching practice
  • it may have been adapted to such an extent that it is being used in a way not intended by the publisher.

These guidelines apply whether schools are re-evaluating the use of packages they already have or whether they are considering buying a new package.

In choosing the package that will best support teaching goals, schools need to think about the following:

  • How does the resource match with the students' needs? Be specific about the features of the resource that will help meet the identified student need.
  • How does the resource match with the teaching programme?
    • What part will this resource play in the teaching programme? Does the resource support the teaching approaches and complement other resources?
    • Schools will need to look closely at their assessment data to do answer these questions. In particular they need to ask how the package fits with ideas and beliefs about the teaching of the relevant curriculum area (for example, the place of small group learning).
  • How does the resource match with the students' experiences? Is the resource relevant for the students in terms of content, level, and interest? Consider these aspects of the resource in relation to the experiences of the students who might use it.
  • Have others used this resource? Consult other schools or advisers who have used the resource. Consider releasing teachers (and teacher aides, if relevant) to observe its use in another school (including the purpose for its use and the outcomes).
  • Is there any independently published material or research that gives information about the use and effectiveness of the resource? The curriculum leader should find any professional reading about the resource and present a summary to staff.
  • What are the logistics involved in introducing this resource to the school? Consider the practicalities of using the resource: Is there sufficient space for the resource to operate (especially if it requires small group work)? Are tapes, video or TV required? Is extra teacher aide time needed? Is it practical to schedule time for different classes to use the resource if there is not one per class, and who would take responsibility for this? Will the package require expenditure on additional resources? Will there be ongoing costs associated with the resource?
  • How adaptable is the resource for use with different groups of students and in different situations? In other words, is it good value for money?
  • How will the resource be introduced to teachers? Will professional development be needed? How will new teachers be introduced to the resource?

Plan carefully how to implement the package

Once an appropriate package has been chosen, make a detailed plan for implementing it in the school. Careful planning at this early stage ensures good data and documented evidence on which to make informed judgments about the effectiveness of the package.

  • Take time to become familiar with the package. Read the publisher's information carefully. Consider a limited trial of the package before using it more widely.
  • Set specific, measurable goals for the learning outcomes to be achieved, including a timeframe. How will teachers know whether gains in student achievement have been made as a result of implementing the package?
  • Set the success criteria. What would make the package a success? (This might include an assessment of ease of use, for example, as well as the achievement of learning goals.) What would make the school stop using the package?
  • Decide how and when to collect, analyse, and discuss student achievement data, and when to make decisions about further use of the package. Who will be responsible for managing this process?

An especially important part of planning is to set a process in place to ensure that the use of the package is sustainable. In particular, plan how teachers will document observations and comments about the use of the package. This could take the form of a journal or in-house handbook that details:

  • the rationale for choosing the package
  • the reasons for any modifications
  • suggestions for effective use or descriptions of problems encountered and how they were solved
  • the effectiveness of the package.

This documentation represents the school's collective learning about the package. It is essential that this accumulated knowledge is easily accessible to teachers new to the school if use of the package is to be sustainable.

Establish baseline data

In the planning phase, measurable goals for the learning outcomes will have been set. Ensure there is baseline data on these goals so that, at an appropriate later stage (as set out in the implementation plan), valid judgements about progress can be made.

Implement the standard package

Implement the standard package first (that is, the package as recommended by the publisher). It is possible that teacher-made changes could negatively impact on the effectiveness of the package.

Discuss and document experiences with the package

Hold regular meetings to develop everyone's skills in using the resource and to discuss experiences and observations of using the package. Record these experiences and observations in a journal or in-house handbook, as discussed above.

Collect data and check progress against the baseline data

Collect and analyse student achievement data at the time specified in the implementation plan, and measure progress against the baseline data. Record the results in the journal together with interpretations of the results and conclusions about the package's effectiveness in raising student achievement.

Reflect on the package and decide to continue using it, refine it, or discontinue its use

Using the success criteria determined in the planning stage, and reflecting on everyone's experiences of using the package, decide on one of the following options:

  • Continue using the package as it has been implemented.
  • Continue using the package, but with refinements. It is possible that there are several suggestions for modifying the package to better fit with the students or the teaching programme. Remember that if several changes are made to the package and results are either better or worse than before, it is difficult to know which changes, or combination of changes, were responsible. Instead, consider making one or two changes and assessing the results; and then making further refinements in the next cycle. Alternatively, make one change in one classroom, and another change in another classroom.
  • Discontinue use of the package.

Again, it is important that these are collaborative decisions involving all teachers using the package.

Continue to monitor the package

If the decision is made to continue using the package, monitor students' progress by repeating the process of:

  • documenting modifications, teacher experiences, and observations of the package
  • assessing student achievement data regularly, according to the goals and the success criteria
  • reflecting on the package and refining it, if necessary, or discontinuing its use.

Consider also setting in place processes to inform students, other teachers, parents, and boards of trustees about the package and the outcomes of its use in the school.

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Case study

A case study, which illustrates in detail how these guidelines apply in practice, can be found in section 6 of the research by Parr, Aikman, Irving, and Glasswell (2004). A full reference is given below.

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Further information

For more detailed information about the research on which these guidelines are based, see:

Parr, J., Aikman, M., Irving, E., and Glasswell, K. (2004). An evaluation of the use and integration of readymade commercial literacy packages into classroom programmes. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Parr, J., Glasswell, K., & Aikman, M. (2004). So, it's time to buy some new teaching materials?: Effective practice in selection and implementation. Publication pending.

For more information on evidence-based teaching practice and what constitutes best practice in teaching, see:

Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Timperley, H & Parr, J. (2004). Using evidence in teaching practice: Implications for professional learning. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers.

Timperley, H.S. & Wiseman, J. (2003). The sustainability of professional development. Report to the Ministry of Education. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

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Flowchart of evidence-based approach

Flowchart of evidence-based approach

Published on: 07 Jul 2010