There are several questions to ask when examining and evaluating the "intrinsic merits" of materials made for individuals and groups in school or other educational settings, from Kindergarten to Grade 12 for example - otherwise known as curriculum materials. The points listed below may be considered for both print and audiovisual materials. Of course, not all materials can be judged as excellent or even good in all respects. However, a strong critical evaluation which should include both strengths and weaknesses of the material can be developed. With practice, you can make a sound judgment concerning the overall quality of any material and its suitability for use in the classroom and in the development of unit plans in order to aid the students in achieving the objectives for the course.
1. AUTHORITY - What are the credentials of the author, editor, contributor, illustrator, actor, publisher or producer? This influences the credibility of the work. Dust jackets, introductions, and teachers' guides may contain some information. Biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias can also be useful to find information about prominent authors.
2. SCOPE - What subject or topic is covered? What is the depth of the coverage? Is this a comprehensive work or an overview of a topic? The title, dust jacket, introduction, container and teachers' guides should provide some information.
3. AUDIENCE - Is this a juvenile, popular, scholarly or technical publication? Some material is recommended for a particular age or grade level. Are the print size, vocabulary, illustrations, and concepts appropriate for the recommended audience? Note that some materials may be of interest to both juvenile and adult level audiences.
4. CURRICULUM SUPPORT - Does the material support the Alberta curriculum for the recommended audience level? Examine the Teacher Resource Manuals and the Programs of Studies published by Alberta Learning. Consult the manual or guide for the subject area of interest at the appropriate grade level.
5. OBJECTIVITY - Is a balanced view of a controversial topic presented? Has the author stated his or her personal bias about the topic in an introduction? Are opinions presented as facts or supported by research?
6. ACCURACY - Is the information presented accurate, or are there inconsistencies or inaccuracies noted? Check data against a known reputable source.
7. CURRENCY - How current are references cited in bibliographies or lists of suggested readings? Is the latest census or statistical information included?
8. ARRANGEMENT - Does the information flow in an orderly fashion? Are there gaps or omissions in the information? Are indexes, glossaries, or keys to pronunciation available? Are test questions or suggested activities included? Are teachers' guides, workbooks, scripts, or other support materials available?
9. STYLE - Is the information clearly presented in a style appropriate for the intended audience? Is the style scholarly or entertaining? Is it appropriate for the subject? Will students find the information not only interesting but intellectually challenging? Will students be stimulated to read more books by a particular author or to study further in the subject area?
10. PHYSICAL FORMAT - Is the binding or container durable and attractive? Check the typeface and illustrations. Are they clear, legible, and appropriate for the intended audience? Are audiovisual materials constructed of strong, durable material? Curriculum level materials are intended for use by many students. Is this the best format for presenting the information? What viewing equipment is required for audiovisual materials?
11. PRICE - Is the price reasonable for the material? Price information may be available on the item or in catalogs or reviews. Take into account its intrinsic merits and physical qualities. If the material is available in more than one format, is there a notable difference in the prices? How does the price compare to other materials of a similar quality?
12. COMPARISON - How does the material being evaluated compare to materials by the same author, illustrator or publisher? Does it compare favorably to other materials on the same topic?