Module 8


Accessing and Evaluating Resources for Coastal and Marine Studies





Reading 1

A Bit About Bias

Reading 2 Evaluation Criteria


Reading 1

A Bit About Bias

Source: Adapted from Tourtillott, L. and Britt, P. (1994) Evaluating Environmental Education Materials, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp. 9-10.

Teachers should address the issue of bias when evaluating resources. Each of us has our own biases developed through our experiences. In addition to our personal biases, we are confronted with many forms of bias every day - in textbooks, posters, newspapers and on television. Industry and environmental groups are most often accused of presenting slanted information, but almost all forms of informational media contain some type of bias. Many are very subtle and merely a matter of how "facts" are determined and presented. Who pays for the material often indicates what slant it might take.


For example, textbooks tend to include the same material edition after edition because that is what teachers and curriculum bodies expect and therefore will buy. The bias is toward the status quo and tradition, as determined by sales. Other forms of bias are more obvious, such as language that tend to portray leaders, scientists, or active individuals as men, or illustrations of domestic roles played by women.

Therefore, it is important for educators to acknowledge that we do not live in a world free from bias and to facilitate students' abilities to recognise and address bias in their lives. Recognising bias is the first step to approaching issues (especially value-laden issues) with an open perspective.


OHT 5 is a list of types of bias that could be found in environmental education resources.

Identification of bias is a critical step in evaluating materials. You may not want to eliminate all bias from materials. Such material can help students understand what bias is, that they are affected by bias and that they would gain from identifying their own biases.


Educators can deal with bias in a variety of ways:

  • not use the material;
  • accept the bias as is;
  • balance the bias with other materials;
  • point out the bias to students and have them discuss and analyse it;
  • help students develop critical thinking skills to identify bias on their own; and/or
  • modify the materials to reduce bias.

Reading 2

Evaluation Criteria

Source: Adapted from Tourtillott, L. and Britt, P. (1994) Evaluating Environmental Education Materials, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp. 7-8.

There are different categories of criteria to be considered when evaluating resources. Educators tend to focus on the quality and accuracy of content. Learning styles and presentation of material are also important considerations. The objectives of coastal and marine studies include awareness, attitudes and actions (see Module 1). These objectives should be considered when choosing resources in coastal and marine studies, also.

Awareness and Knowledge

Two important factors that you can assess in an armchair review are accuracy and breadth of content. If you are not familiar with a coastal and marine topic, you may need help in developing content specific criteria. You can start by narrowing the topic into 5-10 key concepts and develop criteria that address these concepts. Teachers may wish to team up with coastal and marine specialists for this step.

Some important criteria might be:

  • Are terms defined clearly?
  • Are coastal and marine concepts set in a social as well as an ecological context?
  • Do issues chosen for study relate to specific coastal and marine concepts?
  • Does the information contain multiple perspectives (or is thebias declared)?
  • Are the concepts relevant to learners' lives?
  • Is the depth of information relevant for the intended developmental level?


There is no way around it: environmental issues and the solutions we choose are value laden. Attitudes about the coastal and marine environment are based on individual and social value systems. It is important for facilitators to help students define and understand their own values as well as understand and value other people's perspectives. Students ideally should come away from a class feeling positive about participating in coastal and marine issues.

Considerations when evaluating the treatment of attitudes in educational resources include:

  • Do the materials encourage a sense of personal stake and responsibility?
  • Do the materials express a hopeful outlook?
  • Do the materials contain positive role models for discussion and action?
  • Do the materials encourage students to clarify their own values?
  • Are coastal and marine topics covered from a variety of perspectives, which no one perspective predominant?

Skills and Participation

Students are more likely to become active in coastal and marine solutions if they are aware of the range of possible actions they could take, are then able to evaluate them for appropriateness and effectiveness, and have the skills necessary to implement chosen action strategies. Successful instructional materials address action strategies in several ways, including:

  • The problems are presented with a range of possible solutions.
  • The material compels students to consider the implications of possible solutions.
  • The material motivates students to become actively involved and supports them in their quest for solutions.
  • Activities provide students with critical reasoning and problem solving experiences.
  • Activities help students gain new problem solving skills.
  • Activities help students gain communication skills, group skills, leadership skills and other interpersonal skills, necessary to become involved in solutions.
  • Action strategies focus on win-win solutions, whenever possible.
  • Both individual and community action strategies are presented.