Educational Jargon

Many, many years ago, no doubt inspired by having watched too many episodes of ‘Dynasty’, I aspired to be a big shot in business. I saw myself strutting into boardrooms and negotiating impressive deals (wearing the sharpest of business suits). With this in the back of my mind, I enrolled on an MBA course (a Master in Business Administration) and started my journey into the world of business.

Of course, it was nothing like I imagined it would be. Instead, I had to sit through mind numbingly boring lectures that seemed to be teaching what I thought was the bleeding obvious. Who would have thought there was a 4 P’s of marketing? Product (develop the right product for your market), price (get the pricing right), promotion (advertise it basically) and place (make sure you pick the right place to sell your product, so maybe not a good idea to have a baby clothes shop in the middle of Soho). All that common sense of business was repackaged into magical potions and acronyms, like SWOT analyses and the 7C’s of communication.

This kind of thing is not unique to the world of business. I have since discovered that most professions like to to have their own ‘in-house’ jargon. Education is no exception. I struggled at first to work out what people were talking about on edu-twitter or even in some meetings with colleagues. It took me a while to clock the meaning of SLT, SOWs or even something as common as SEN. Who on earth was a SENco? Sounded a bit like Kenko, so maybe it had something to do with making us nice cups of coffee. Going beyond the acronyms, I then had to try to understand what people were talking about when they said something was ‘constructivist’ or mentioned someone called ‘Hattie’ – I twigged that he was some kind of big cheese in education. At some point, I decided to make my own education knowledge organiser which explained all the main bits of terminology I was coming across. Here’s what I came up with (I’m sure I’ve missed something, so let me know what I should add to this).

Education theories
Progressive education Progressive education is a view of education that emphasises the need to learn by doing. It is influenced by John Dewey who believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands-on’ approach. It is characterised by a child-centered approach which places the emphasis of learning on the needs and interests of the child. In this model of education, the role of a teacher is to act more as a facilitator than an instructor.
Traditional education A model of education which emphasises direct instruction, a focus on imparting knowledge and strong discipline.
Constructivism Constructivism is a theory about how people learn which posits that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point towards encouraging students to use active techniques such as experiments and real-world problem solving.
Behaviourism Behaviourism is a systematic approach to the understanding of human behaviour which operates on a principle of ‘stimulus-response’.  All behaviour is caused by external stimuli (conditioning). The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa) and behaviour is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement.
AFL Assessment for learning (AFL) is an approach to teaching and learning that uses feedback to improve students’ performance. AFL involves students becoming more involved in the learning process and starting to ‘think like a teacher’. Through feedback, the students can think more actively about where they are now, where they are going and how to get there.
Cognitive Load Theory Cognitive Load Theory was developed by John Sweller. ‘Cognitive load’ relates to the amount of information that working memory can hold at one time. Sweller suggests that, since working memory has a limited capacity, instructional methods should avoid overloading it with additional activities that don’t directly contribute to learning.
Growth mindset This is a theory developed by psychologist, Carol Dweck, who was interested in students’ attitudes about failure. She noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.
Learning Styles The theory that people differ in how they learn and that they have a preferred ‘style’ of learning. One of the most commonly accepted categories of learning styles is VAK or VARK, which groups learners as Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing or Kinaesthetic. This theory has been debunked in several quarters, notably here and here.
Flipped learning An instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home and engage in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of a mentor.
Bloom’s taxonomy Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification system developed in 1956 by education psychologist Benjamin Bloom to categorise intellectual skills and behaviour important to learning. Bloom identified six cognitive levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with sophistication growing from basic knowledge-recall skills to the highest level, evaluation.
Education terminology
Formative assessment Formative assessment monitors student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning – these assessments are generally low stake.
Summative assessment Summative assessments help to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit and are often high stake, for example these could be end of year exams.
Reductive reasoning Reductive reasoning seeks to demonstrate that a statement is true by showing that a false or absurd result follows from its denial. It is proving a statement true by reducing to the opposite of it and showing the absurdity of the opposite result.
Matthew effect The phenomenon in sociology, also known as accumulated advantage, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It takes its name from the parable of the talents in the biblical gospel of Matthew.
Influential people
Jean Piaget A Swiss clinical psychologist known for his theory of cognitive development in children. Piaget defined his theory in terms of schemas (building blocks of knowledge) and 4 different stages of cognitive development in which these schemas became more sophisticated. Piaget’s theories have been influential on educational policy, most notably in the championing of discovery learning in early years education.
Lev Vygotsky A Soviet psychologist who proposed a theory of development which emphasised social interaction in the development of cognition. According to Vygotsky, important learning by the child occurs through social interaction with a skillful tutor. The tutor may model behaviours and/or provide verbal instructions for the child. Vygotsky refers to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. Vygotsky’s theories are relevant to instructional methods such as ‘scaffolding’ where a teacher helps to structure a task so the novice can work on it successfully.
John Dewey An American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer who was a founder of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism and a leader of the progressive movement in education in the USA.
John Hattie Author of seminal ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’,  the largest ever synthesis of meta-analyses of quantitative measures of the effect of different factors on educational outcomes.
E.D. Hirsch An American educator and author best known for his emphasis on a core knowledge curriculum. Hirsch proposed that romanticised, anti-knowledge theories of education were the cause of America’s lacklustre educational performance and widening inequalities.
Acronyms and organisations
EEF Educational Endowment Foundation is an independent charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Its Teaching & Learning Toolkit aims to provide evidence for the impact of different learning strategies. There are some doubts as to the validity of EEF’s findings.
Chartered college of teaching A new professional body for teachers which aims to support them in gaining expertise.
QTS This stands for Qualified Teacher Status, the teaching qualification that is recognised in the UK.
NQT This stands for Newly Qualified Teacher, which refers to the induction year that follows the acquisition of Qualified Teacher Status. Information about the induction year can be found here.
PGCE This stands for Post Graduate Certificate in Education, which is usually university led, and combines Qualified Teacher Status with further postgraduate training – this qualification is recognised outside the UK and is a pre-requisite if you are thinking of teaching abroad.
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