Embedding Rigor Into Curriculum with OER


This article was originally published at www.ccsso.org under a CC-By license.

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching materials licensed for free use and repurposing. This case study is a part of a research study conducted by CCSSO and iNACOL. The purpose of the study is to explore the current status of development and dissemination of OER in K-12 education at the state, district and classroom levels. For more case studies and resources, visit http://www.ccsso.org/oer

AP teacher Sandra Stroup explains why she is a supporter of OER.

Sandra Stroup, M.Ed.  is a national board certified language arts teacher with more than  30 years of teaching experience.  She has taught the Advanced Placement (AP) English course at Richland High School, a traditional bricks and mortar school, in Richland, WA for more than  a decade. Stroup works across content areas with other departments as a Common Core coach and an English Language Arts (ELA) fellow, helping teachers find resources they can align to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Stroup is a resource for finding ideas to put into practice within professional learning communities (PLCs), especially as it connects to new teaching standards. This is in addition to her work as a state network educator for Washington's digital OER library, and the Washington State Office of Public Instruction's Open Educational Resources Project to evaluate ELA units for 9th and 10th grade courses. 

As standards in her content area shift, Stroup is committed to embedding rigor into her daily lessons. For Stroup, OER and related instructional materials are helping her do just that by providing supplementary resources in the form of digital content.

"There is a lot of confusion," Stroup says, referring to new standards that are requiring educators in all content areas to focus more on informational reading and writing. She finds that OER can help teachers prepare and carry out lessons connected to research papers and MLA citations.

Stroup says she is fortunate to work in a school with laptops and other digital devices, but says that in her work outside of Richland High, there is inequality in terms of access. This is one of the barriers to using OER that Stroup says can affect students who are struggling to find equitable resources.

Although Stroup agrees that technology needs to be one of the pillars of their pedagogical approach, she is not in favor of using technology for every lesson simply because it's available. She says that OER helps bridge the gap between technology and quality instruction.

Sandra Stroup explains the benefits of using OER in her English classroom.

Stroup says she has used openly licensed materials by Intel and Khan Academy for writing and critical reading, which is helpful not only for language arts teachers, but also in subject areas like science and social studies, where there is more critical reading happening these days as a result of  CCSS.

In a writing-intensive learning environment, Stroup says it is necessary to provide students with high-quality rubrics and writing exemplars. Stroup highlights grade-level argumentative and expository-based writing exams that students must pass to move up a grade level. These tests create a need for quality preparation materials, which Stroup says she has found through openly licensed repositories such as Achieve the Core and Engage NY.

"They have great prompts; some of the ones we use have exemplars," says Stroup, "and it is so important to show that. Kids can see what to model after, what works, and what doesn't work. Writing is not a formula, it's organic."

Stroup's go-to resources can also be found closer to home.

"We have an online site for OER from Washington state," Stroup explains. "I have walked a lot of people through that; they will [choose] what works for them."

When Stroup meets with colleagues in their weekly professional learning community (PLC) time, discussions often focus on school-wide goals, and the planning of projects. She says that the teachers she works with understand OER and the state's digital library repository of openly licensed materials, but that they don't have much time to train.

"Writing is so complex," she says. "Good writers need good feedback, but it's hard to embed [time] in the system. The more teachers start to see the difference [in writing styles] with anchor sets and examples, [the better] they can break down the nuances."

Openly licensed materials also come in the form of primary documents, that are useful as reference materials, such as the Baylor School's literary terms website. Stroup is careful to make sure her students understand the term OER, and how licensing and copyright affect their work.

Future Steps
Moving forward, Stroup would love to see an openly licensed interactive tutorial that teaches basic grammar skills. With the focus on informational writing in the CCSS, Stroup says that is a skill set many teachers could use help with, but that they are often hesitant to mention. She would love to see the state and the University of Washington create something fun and interactive for teachers that could count toward recertification credits.

Says Stroup, her goal is to ensure an "active, engaged populous, one classroom at a time."


Sandra Stroup, AP Language and Composition Teacher
Richland High School
Richland, WA