Educational Buzzwords


Educational jargon is something every teacher is familiar with, especially if they are applying for a job in the classroom, working with curriculum, or trying to change educational policy. But, as a parent, it can be quite overwhelming trying to figure out what your child's teacher, administrator, or guidance counselor is talking about. If you are interested in learning what these terms mean, keep reading.

Common Core Standards or sometimes just referred to as Common Core is the work of state academic titans who set out to measure the progress of teachers and students throughout the state. A uniform set of standards was established to better sync students and teachers around the nation. They also focus on measures that require advanced thinking skills to best prepare students for college. A commonality I see with the Common Core Standards is students, parents, and teachers are equally frustrated with the testing requirements.

Differentiated instruction is an instructional technique used to reach students with various learning needs and styles. Teachers observe students in the learning environment and adopt specific instructional methods that help the student meet the goals of the course. The instructional strategies may also be required based on a 504 or IEP plan. Although differentiated instruction is a fairly recent term, teachers have been doing this for decades.

Individual learning styles is spoken about often. However, the most recent research seems to suggest that this is all but debunked. Students do have preferred ways of learning material, but the science doesn't support the "learning styles" argument at this time. However, as stated, it's still discussed often amongst the educational community. To clarify, this refers to students learning best through visualization, kinesthetic (movement/doing), or listening.

Technology integration is the most popular selling point of schools around the country, especially private and charter schools. This refers to complimenting direct instruction through the usage of iPads, SMART boards, or other technologies. While technology can enhance the learning experience, it is not a replacement or a "magic wand" that will help students learn the material without effort and perseverance.

Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy where students are partnered together to complete tasks. Cooperative or group learning is one of the most successful teaching strategies I have utilized in my classroom. This allows students of various abilities to work toward a goal together while promoting positive interdependence. Positive interdependence is best explained by saying, “all for one and one for all”, which was first wrote about in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. When done correctly, the teacher will use a strategy called "jigsawing." Jigsawing is a giving each student a piece of the assignment. The group cannot complete the task without each student completing their portion. So, just like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, the project begins to come together and is ultimately achieved when everyone does their part and brings their piece.

Instructional Scaffolding is the support given to students when introducing new concepts. Some of these techniques include piquing interest through prior knowledge, real-world connections, modeling, visual aids, etc. Scaffolding is an essential component of successful teaching and improving student learning.

Lastly, text complexity refers to how challenging the material is for a child. Common core standards introduced three levels for measuring text complexity: Quantitative, qualitative, reader and task. Teachers use these three measures along with their professional judgment.

You don't have to be intimidated when it comes to education. If you don't understand something being said, stop the person and ask for clarification. If you don't feel comfortable talking with your child's teacher or administrator, you are always welcome to call us at Engaged Academics.


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