Review of Resource-Based Learning

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Huang-Chi Chen

Indiana University in Bloomington


With the emergence of the Web and opportunities for online collaboration, news reading, blogging, resource sharing, and even the use of wikis like this particular book, opportunities for resource-based learning are increasing at a rapid rate. It is time, therefore, for teachers and schools to have a theory of learning to guide their use of such extensive materials and resources. Fortunately, this chapter on research-based learning does just that!

Key points

  • Resource-based learning has been used to supplement more instructivistic teaching methods.
  • Resource-based learning is an educational model designed to actively engage students with multiple resources in both print and non-print form.
  • Resource-based learning is predicated upon the principle that individual learners will be drawn to the media and content which best match their own processing skills and learning styles.
  • There are two important roles in resource-based learning: (1) the teacher, and (2) the media-specialist and both cooperate in the completion of the unit.
  • There are several steps in implementing a resource-based learning unit: determine unit goal, determine acceptable student artifacts, thoroughly plan the unit, gather resources in a variety of formats, generate a timeline for the unit, schedule research time, develop a rubric to assess student artifacts, evaluate student performance, and evaluate the unit.

Suggestions for Improvement

The authors mentioned that “Mrs. Russell’s Civil war unit is a better example of resource-based teaching.” But the remainder of the chapter failed to provide a clear distinction between resource-based teaching and resource-based learning. It seems that all materials are discussed, prepared, and provided by teacher and media-specialist. Students simply find some topics fitting their interests; hence, I think it is still resource-based teaching rather than resource-based learning.

I think it would be better if the authors offered more successful examples of resource-based learning activities and syllabi in this chapter that will not only enrich the content but also make the resource-based learning more vivid and practical. Teaching is not only theoretical pedagogy but practical performance.

One of the benefits of the resource-based learning the authors addressed is that it provides the training ground for development of the necessary information literacy skills for learners to navigate the changing, sometimes confusing, landscape of information sources. I think it is too ideal to make an accurate prediction. How to cultivate students’ information literacy skills in such a short time through a specific unit? Is that even possible? Will it not take the combined effort of many teachers and classes for such skills to emerge? Will it take away from time that could be spent on other subjects? Or will it allow students to drown in the garbage bin of information? I suggest the authors provide more examples to prove their assertions.

Information on Resource-Based Teaching

As indicated above, in authors’ opinion, there are two important roles in resource-based learning: (1) the teacher, and (2) the media-specialist. Both of these individuals cooperate in the completion of the unit. I think the use as well as success of such roles will depend on the kind of education system and culture, country, and age level of student.

For instance, in Taiwan, elementary school teachers actually play the two roles in the same class. In the school I am teaching, we have eight classes in each grade, and eight class-teachers need to discuss the curriculum as it is integrated into all subjects and search for any kind of resource according to every teacher’s specialty. We have a particular class “Yongan learning” that is designed to visit and make students familiar with our community. Take the fourth grade’s class for example, in the beginning of making a syllabus, teachers need to find out the history and characteristic of the community in library and visit the inhabitants and shop owners and ask them if they can come to class to introduce students to the story of their home community. After gathering all the human and material resources, teachers need to select suitable ones for students and make some slides or video tapes for instructing. When students have a basic idea, we have a field trip to walk around every road and specific spot in our community. Back to class, students group together to make a decision on which part they feel most interesting and make a portfolio and artifacts for the term assignment(s). At the end of the semester, there is an exhibition displaying the all works of every group and every class. It is a wonderful semester project for students to put their learning into practice. This is an example of resource-based leaning unit.

The most difficult part of designing resource-based learning is teachers need to communicate and cooperate. In our school, there are eight teachers in the same grade. As a result, it is a distinguishing feature that we meet and discuss the syllabus once a week and relate it to how the class actually went. It is not a big problem in our school, but in most schools, class teachers usually teach their own class on their own. They seldom have discussions with each other. This lack of collaboration and interaction with fellow teachers will hinder and perhaps totally impedes practicing resource-based learning.

Another potential debate of resource-based learning is the assessment. Because assessments in such classrooms veer away from the multiple-choice quiz to observations of students and their pieces of portfolio and artifacts, the more are parents-involved, the better the students’ work. Of course, we encourage parents to guide children to complete assignments that will help them better understand the content and be successful learners, but if parents are involved too much, the outcome is less students’ effort. Maybe it is not an obvious problem in America, but in Taiwan it is very critical. Sometimes parents argue the grades the teacher made, so it is extremely important how teachers develop a rubric to evaluate student performance.

The author mentioned another challenge about planning resource-based learning experiences for all students – at risk, minority, economically disadvantaged, and ESL student populations. The educational system must offer opportunities to all students; otherwise, that system will be responsible for developing a new elite – the information and technology savvy elite. Being a computer teacher, I have a strong feeling about this. Our school is located in the community in which most inhabitants are from a higher socio-economic level, and almost every student has computer and internet at home. Besides, from the third grade to sixth grade, there is a computer class each week. We design a particular program to teach students’ computer literacy for each grade. Such programs help foster student skills to perform well with technology as in resource-based learning. However, in the rural or suburban schools, there are other situations. I definitely agree the author’s opinion that the adequate teacher and student support is paramount for resource-based learning to work effectively.