Evaluating the quality of non-fiction resources is a complex task. Key criteria are suggested for both content and form in order to evoke classroom and professional discussion about what makes a resource one of effectiveness, impact, interest, and significance.
A Traditional Distinction: Content and Form
Teachers and teacher-librarians take seriously the work of developing strong criteria in order to buy, use, and share the best non-fiction resources. This is even more important at a time of fiscal restriction on the one hand, and of overwhelming choice on the other. Such work is even more difficult as the list of formats and types of resources grows. This is one of the reasons I favour aggregating applications like lcommons.org to share the work and resources.
Is there a notion that might help the complex process of evaluating the quality of one resource against another?
One place to turn might be a distinction, made by ancient rhetoricians and modern pedagogues alike, between content (the matter being created) and form (the manner in which it is created). Synonyms for content might include substance, idea, or argument; synonyms for form might include style, medium, or treatment.
Some frame this distinction as one of substance versus style. But this is a wayward notion, as ideas are wedded to their expression. A building’s form follows its function and its function depends on its form.