Teachers rely on the quality of their resources every day. Stephen Hessey explores what makes a good resource

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Searching Google for teaching resources returns a staggering number of results. But how do you know which of those resources are any good? How do you know which will actually save you time, and make your teaching more effective?

Sometimes, resource providers and repositories can seem more interested in volume than value. Among all the clutter, it can be difficult to quickly pick out high quality, relevant resources that can be easily incorporated into your teaching. Our team at Learn Chemistry aspires to act as that filter. But before we can do that, we need to know what we’re looking for.

A good resource is accurate

This goes without saying – an educational resource must be factually accurate. But that’s not the full story – consistency is also important. The factual narrative, in terms of the scientific models and descriptions used, should be coherent. For example, both the Bohr model and quantum model of the atom are valid in the right contexts, but we shouldn’t flip between these two models without sufficient explanation. That can lead to confusion.

A good resource is useful

Any resource should have clear structure and language. The most effective method of presentation depends on the content. For example, a video is often more effective at demonstrating a practical technique than a text document. But if a supplementary set of instructions would also help, then this should be included too.

Often, a format that can be edited is the most useful. You need resources you can integrate into existing lesson plans and materials, and you need to be able to tailor resources to the specific needs of your students. Sometimes, this is as simple as making a text document available in Word format instead of PDF.

As well as being clear and editable, all resources should have appropriate guidance for teachers. This includes learning outcomes and information on misconceptions that the material can clear up, or even introduce if handled poorly.

A good resource is efficient

A teacher’s time is precious, and any resource worth using needs to provide a good return on the time invested in delivering it. A resource that involves a number of hours of preparation time needs to be very beneficial to the students to offset the work involved.

But the existence of an efficient resource is not enough – you need to be able to tell how useful it is, without needing to invest a lot of time working out whether or not you want to use it. The benefits should be easy to appreciate, and the aims should be clear – what it sets out to achieve, how it does it, and who it’s aimed at.

A good resource is relevant

Resources need to be clearly curriculum-relevant to be the most useful, and all should be framed in the wider context of the subject. Connections should be exploited – it should be clear how a resource builds on, is built on by, and links to others. This helps teachers see how it can be most effectively used over several lessons and in schemes of work.

Finally, a resource should show where it came from and who made it. You can have more confidence in the relevance of a resource when you know something about its origin

So what makes a good resource? One that’s accurate, useful, efficient, and relevant. This is what we hope to achieve with resources on Learn Chemistry. With so much material out there, there should never be any need to rely on a resource that’s ‘good enough’.

Stephen Hessey works on Learn Chemistry at the Royal Society of Chemistry