3 Using resources to their full potential for learning

Next you will be looking at how to improve the use of resources that are underused (scoring a B or C) and how to access and use some of these previously unrecognised resources (probably scored D) in your school to contribute to improved learning outcomes for your students. It may take some creative thinking and some organising to make these resources a regular part of the teaching and learning in your school, partly because other teachers may not yet be confident about including them in their lessons.

Equally, there may be good reasons why resources are not being used in their current form (e.g. they are out of date, need repairing, do not support student learning as well as an alternative resource). Resource management therefore becomes an important responsibility for the school leader, although it can become overwhelming if allowed to dominate your agenda. You should link your direct involvement in resource management specifically to those areas where you can enable an improvement in learning. For example, you may prioritise managing the resources for the science curriculum as this is an area in which you know, from data, that girls are not achieving good grades.

One way to manage resources in a targeted way is to set resource targets as described in Case Study 1.

Case Study 1: Mr Kumar’s resource management

Mr Kumar was newly appointed as school leader in a rural school that had a wide range of students who generally came from impoverished backgrounds. He was immediately aware that the school itself also looked poor – there were no displays of work, students lacked basic equipment and there was no furniture or shelving. But there was a large school compound with trees, vegetation and a supply of water. With his three teachers, Mr Kumar looked at how they could better use the resources at hand. They came up with lots of ideas about how they could use the immediate area as a resource for teaching sciences and environmental studies, but recognised that the area would need some nurturing to make the most of its potential.

Mr Kumar, helped by his teachers, made a plan to manage the compound as a resource. The target was that every student be active in the compound at least once a week as part of their learning. This target meant that teachers needed to organise their teaching accordingly.

Mr Kumar’s plan included that the older students establish a vegetable patch and create rotas for watering and tending to the crops. He enlisted the help of two parents, who were to erect some poultry cages from drawings the children had made in a mathematics class. One teacher agreed to do a letter-writing activity in the English class to ask a local business to donate gardening tools and the students started a project to gather and grow seeds for planting. Mr Kumar was thrilled when a local forestation charity volunteered to plant some trees on the edges of the compound – news spread of the new ‘green’ school leader, and soon a group of parents were regularly seen helping maintain the grounds.

Activity 3: Reflecting effective resource management

Reread Mr Kumar’s case and reflect on the following questions:

  • What was effective about how Mr Kumar led the change to turn the compound into a learning resource?
  • How did Mr Kumar establish a process for monitoring the use of the compound as a learning resource?
  • How do you think Mr Kumar could have identified the impact on student learning outcomes?
  • What can you learn from this case study which can be applied to managing resources in your own context?


Mr Kumar set about making a plan for managing the compound as a teaching resource. It had the added benefit of making the school more attractive and the students gained a sense of pride. He needed to manage activities and people to reach his target. The people that are part of the school and its wider community are an important resource. They may be able to offer time and/or expertise and some may be able to offer funding. Their time and expertise are, however, just as valuable, and Mr Kumar managed a great deal with their help. The school leader motivates and inspires people to contribute resources to the school, and then manages their efforts according to an overall plan related to improving learning outcomes.

Activity 4: Preparing for staff involvement

You will see that Mr Kumar immediately involved his staff in discussing better use of available resources. As school leader he started a conversation and involved his staff in the problem solving. If you have already included others in making your lists and grading the use of resources, you will have colleagues who will be open to the findings. But you may also have colleagues who are sceptical about any suggestion of a change to their regular ways of working.

Look at the resources you identified where the gradings were B, C or D. Consider in your Learning Diary the following questions and make notes about your thoughts.

  • What would you need to do to make these resources effective in supporting student learning?
  • How would you begin this conversation with your staff?
  • How would you overcome the resistance of those staff and colleagues who do not want to change the way they do things?


As a school leader you need to engage with your staff to guide and enthuse them to use a wide range of resources. They may need some guidance at first to draw on resources outside the school and to use the resources that are available in more creative ways. The biggest resource in any classroom is the students themselves, who bring a wealth of experiences and knowledge that can be used by the teacher to enhance the learning of their peers.

You may think about providing examples to your staff that inspire them to work differently; for example, a biology lesson that involves students bringing leaves to school that are then categorised, or an English lesson where students bring a piece of packaging to develop a vocabulary list of foods or their nutritional contents. You may also want to think about how your teachers could learn from each other or from teachers in other schools – people are less resistant to new ideas when they can see their colleagues being successful with them.

You may find the table in Resource 1 useful to share with your team when you engage them in the discussions about improving the use of resources in your school. Resource 2 might be a helpful handout to share as part of the discussions.

Activity 5: Planning a session with your staff on resource management

Understanding what resources are available across a school (particularly a large one) and whether existing resources are being fully utilised will involve the whole staff. As the school leader you will need to explain the rationale for addressing the issues of underutilised and unutilised resources, and the impact this may be having on learning outcomes. You will also need to make explicit that you need the staff’s help in identifying human resources (or people) that fall into these categories. Your starting point for this process is to invite the staff to participate in thinking about these issues.

Make some notes in your Learning Diary as to how you plan to run the session. Afterwards, make sure that you evaluate how it went and make notes about what you may do differently another time. The points listed below could form a basis for how this meeting may progress.

  • Introduce your rationale for addressing underutilised and unutilised resources, making sure it is rooted in improving student learning. Discuss the auditing you have done so far and what you have learned from it.
  • Introduce the idea of a wider view of resources and what an educational resource can be. You may want to explain the different categories and get the staff involved in thinking about what resources are available in your school for each category, to help them understand these.
  • Discuss how, as a school community, you could work together to identify underutilised and unused resources in other subjects or curriculum areas.
  • Discuss how, as a group, you could best ensure that everyone’s skills and knowledge is being utilised fully in support of student learning (this includes parents, students and others in the community, as well as teachers).
  • Set some targets for the use of resources or actions to be taken before a review on a set date – remember to relate these to learning outcomes for students.
  • Seek volunteers to work with you on a plan to better use the available resources. Fix a follow-up meeting with them to work on a utilisation plan for these resources.


Planning sessions like this invariably lead to a better outcome. As with students, there has to be the right balance between instruction and information giving, and active engagement by your staff. You should be modelling active learning when you introduce new approaches and when you are seeking changes in practice. When people understand what has brought something into focus and feel supported in making a change, they are more likely to see this as an opportunity rather than as a threat. In this situation, you are inviting your staff to bring more variety, energy and resonance to their lessons through employing a range of different resources: they could find that exciting!

You may find Resource 2 a useful handout to give to your staff.

One way to share the benefits of a wider view of resources is through case studies such as Case Study 2, which is an interview with a school leader about how she introduced field trips as a learning resource in her school. She explains the rich learning opportunities that resulted from the trip, but also acknowledges the added workload that comes from planning and organising these trips. There may also be financial implications for transport or paying fees, which needs to be factored in to any plan.

Figure 2 Managing your school’s resources will improve your students’ learning.

Case Study 2: Interview with a school leader about introducing field trips

Interviewer   You have undertaken two field visits per term for each of your classes. Why has this been such an important aspect of your school’s life?
School leader            I found that the students were learning concepts in a bookish way, but were not able to relate it with real life. So although the students learnt that letters were a means of communication, they had never written a letter – nor had they visited the post office, which is just down the road from the school. The older classes were learning about germs and contamination, but many of them had never realised that the pathology laboratory in the next town was the place where the doctor sent blood samples for testing. I felt that they must know these things and so I spoke with the teachers.
Interviewer   And they agreed?
School leader            Well, they asked me how we could take so many students and whether the laboratory would agree to this visit. So I asked all the teachers to come up with some visits for each class and then we approached the parents and shared what we wanted to do.
Interviewer   Why the parents?
School leader            We don't have the resources to do this, so parents would have to contribute. One of them runs a bus service and he agreed to operate the bus at cost for us. The other parents agreed to provide some money for the visit.
Interviewer   So the visits were quite easy to manage?
School leader            Actually, most things are easy once you make a decision, but we did undertake a lot of planning. The teachers went to the places to get permission and explain what we wanted to do and why. We had to think about how we would introduce the visit to the students, how we would collect questions and what we would do with the information with which they returned.
Interviewer   I noticed that the students in Class VII had some drawings in their book about buildings.
School leader            Class VII recently went to the building site three roads away from us and came back with a lot of information on how the excavation is done to lay the foundation. So then we called up the man doing the excavation and he brought the architect with him and they spoke to the students about the kinds of excavations they have done, the kinds of buildings they have built and which soil is easy to build on and which is difficult. The students spoke with them about the difference between building the tall buildings in big cities and the huts that they live in. The architect was quite impressed. The next day the teacher brought a calendar she had at home that showed different buildings and the students drew the sort of building in which they would live. It's a good way to learn about gravity, force, weight, mass, etc.

Activity 6: Reflecting on people as a resource

Case Study 2 identifies the wide variety of ways that people can be used as a resource. Spend some time reflecting on this, using the following points as guidance:

  • Think about the students in Class VII, and the learning they were doing about buildings. Make a list of all the people who were involved in making their learning experience come alive and what it was that they contributed.
  • Think about people (staff, parents, those in the local community) who could be used as an important resource for learning, but currently are not. You may find it easier to think of a particular subject or topic that is taught and then think about who may help.
  • What would be the barriers to you utilising these people to support learning and how could you overcome these barriers?


In thinking about Case Study 2 and answering the questions above, you may have become aware that your staff and others have a wealth of resources that you do not utilise. As in the case study, this may be in the form of parents or local community members who could contribute time, money or expertise. As with any initiative, initiating collaborative activities can be time consuming, and there may be difficulties on the way; but you may quickly find other people volunteering to help once word spreads that you are looking for opportunities, and you may find you can run regular events, which require less organising.

Equally, you may have begun to think about staff who have a range of skills and knowledge beyond that of their subject, have links with other organisations, and have hobbies, experiences or material resources which could be used. One way is to make staff aware of topics or subjects that could benefit from additional resources, and asking them if they have any suggestions or something to offer. This discussion could become a regular feature of staff meetings. You may feel that the case studies and activities in this section provide a useful exercise for your staff to engage with in order to get them thinking about resources they can draw on beyond the four walls of the classroom.

2 Identifying underutilised resources within and outside your school

4 Planning for the use of resources