Nearly all teachers today report using the Internet to obtain instructional materials, and many of them do so quite often. And while several organizations now offer impartial reviews of full curriculum products, very little is known about the content and quality of supplemental instructional materials.
The Supplemental-Curriculum Bazaar: Is What's Online Any Good?, authored by University of Southern California associate professor Morgan Polikoff and educational consultant Jennifer Dean, explores a simple question: Are the supplemental materials teachers download on popular websites high quality?
The study focuses on lesson plans and related materials for high school English language arts, an area where teachers are especially likely to supplement their core curricular resources, and examines over three hundred of the most downloaded materials across three of the most popular supplemental websites:
- Teachers Pay Teachers
- Share My Lesson
It addresses two main sets of questions:
- What types of materials are teachers downloading most frequently? What kinds of content do they include?
- How do experts rate the quality of these materials? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And what is the relationship (if any) between how experts view the quality of the materials and how teachers using them do?
Among the nine findings, our reviewers determine that the quality of the texts referenced in the materials are generally good, but clarity and instructional guidance for teachers are weak, and many resources fail to align to the academic standards to which they claim alignment.
Overall, reviewers rate most of the materials as “mediocre” or “probably not worth using.”
These sobering findings reveal a major mismatch between what content experts think educators should (and shouldn’t) use in classrooms and what teachers, hungry for instructional resources, are choosing to download. We don’t claim that the priorities of both groups should be the same. Still, to help teachers make more informed decisions, supplemental platforms should consider making expert reviews available, in addition to any teacher ratings and popularity rankings they currently offer.
Responses to the report from the materials providers appear in the report materials section below.