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  • Writer's pictureSarah Lustig

Guided tour of educational resources

To celebrate the launch of my new resources page, containing free guides for editors working on educational resources, this month’s post expands on some of the key features of educational resources outlined in my Quick Guide to Editing for Educational Resources.

Educational materials often make use of several features. The features, and the names for those features, vary between different resources. Features that work well in a primary workbook, would not necessarily have a home in a higher education student book.

Nevertheless, there are several common features that it is useful to recognise.

Learning objectives

Many textbooks include a list of learning objectives at that start of each chapter or section within a chapter. The learning objectives tell the student what they should know or be able to do by the time they have completed that section.

Learning objectives (sometimes called LOs) should not be confused with assessment objectives (AOs). The assessment objectives are the objectives that the exam board uses to assess the student in their examinations. Learning objectives usually relate to the knowledge the students will learn (although this varies between subject types – English Literature learning objectives, for example, are often skills based).

Compare this learning objective from a Geography course with an assessment objective from the same course.

Learning objective: ‘The world’s water supply is contained in a closed system – the hydrological cycle.’

Assessment objective: ‘Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse, and evaluate geographical information...’

Activities and case studies

One feature that is common in teaching resources is the activity and/or case study. An activity should give students the opportunity to apply new skills or knowledge learnt to an example. In some subjects, they might incorporate a case study – either real or fictional – and give students questions to answer.

Activities can range from open-ended research or debate activities, to essay-writing, to maths or science problems to solve.

Exam practice

A feature that often appears at the end of sections or chapters are exam-style questions for students to complete. These are distinct from general activities since they must match the style of the exam itself. Your editorial brief should state how far they should match. The details to match can be found in the specification and/or sample exam materials.

Frequent requirements include:

  • Questions should use the exam command terms.

  • Questions must show a mark allocation. The mark allocations must match those in the exam. For example, if questions asking students to ‘evaluate’ are always allocated 12 marks in the exam, this should be copied in the textbook.

  • Students should have the opportunity to practise a range of skills, therefore questions must draw on a range of question types. Not all chapters need to include every question type, but there should be a range across the whole book.

Sample student answers

Sample student answers to questions are included in some resources. These are not empirical answers, such as those responding to a maths question. They are often answers to essay-style questions. They are used as a model to show students how to achieve the highest grades. More than one version of an answer might be included, showing various levels of response.

There are special editing requirements for these pieces of text. Lower-level answers are meant to be imperfect, to show students areas for improvement. This means that awkward phrasing and typos are to be expected and not corrected.

Curriculum-specific features

Finally, any textbook or series might have features that are unique to that curriculum. Courses that place an emphasis on independent learning could include activities for the students to conduct outside the classroom, such as research. Some courses emphasise the links between subjects and a feature might be included to encourage students to make these links between their different areas of learning.

Any unique features should be detailed in your briefing document.

Check out the Quick Guide to Editing for Educational Resources to find out about other features you might come across. Next time you’re in a bookshop, have a look through a textbook to see how these features are used in practice.


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