a negative effect that assessment may have on teaching and learning. For the teacher it manifests itself in 'teaching to the test'. For the learner it may involve solely concentrating on what the test will cover, either in terms of content or skills, to the exclusion of all else. Constructive alignment is a concept designed, in part, to counteract such an effect.

bad faith

a concept from the work of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) which refers to a particular kind of self-deception whereby the individual denies their own freedom, or their capacity to make a free choice or to change.


a digital means of recognising achievements such that they can be displayed online. Essentially, it is an internet version of the merit system common to such groups as The Scouts.


broad banding is an approach to grouping learners where perceived ability is not the only criterion used, although it may be the most significant. Other factors in constructing groups may be influential such as gender, racial, and ethnic balance as well as the perceived motivation, effort, and behaviour of the learners involved (see mixed ability, setting, streaming).

banking model

a pejorative term from the work of Paulo Freire (1921-1997) referring to instructivist views of teaching where knowledge or 'learning' is simply deposited in passive, receptive learners.

baseline assessment

this usually refers to the assessment of children when they first enter primary school. It is used to provide information about levels of readiness for learning, to identify pupils who may experience difficulties in school, and to provide a baseline against which future progress can be measured. In this last sense, the term can be used generally to refer to any assessment designed to establish performance prior to engaging in some learning activity, experience, course, or programme.


that which is deemed to be the fundamental elements of a curriculum, such as the three Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

begging the question

a fallacy in which one already assumes what is still to be proved. The phrase is often used wrongly in the sense of raising or triggering a question.

behaviour management

a term used to refer to the approaches systematically used by teachers to control and shape learners' behaviour. It is mostly associated with establishing an effective environment for learning but, because of some of the social expectations of schooling, teachers, especially in the early years, are expected to teach behaviour in the sense of enabling and supporting children to act in socially accepted ways. It is a term seen as more appropriate than discipline, but recently it has also been questioned because of its association with dubious social practices such asconditioning, and manipulation.


a generic name for theories of learning which stress observable behavioural responses and do not deal with 'unobservables' such as mental states or motivation. Key theorists were John B. Watson (1878-1958), E. L.Thorndike (1874-1949), and B.F.Skinner (1904-1990) who practised in the early to middle years of the 20th century. Learning is understood as being a response to a stimulus which engenders that response. It was heavily influenced by experimentation with animals such as dogs, rats, and pigeons (see conditioning, stimulus-response).


a term borrowed from surveying. In education it usually refers to something which is taken as a point of reference or comparison: for example schoolchildren's attainment in some subject area at a particular age or stage.

Big Brother

a term from George Orwell's novel 1984, referring to a system of government which is intrusively regulatory and controlling, often with menace attached. It is now used of any management approach which uses surveillance and staff monitoring to an excessive extent.

bilateral school

in England, a school which has both selective (grammar) and non-selective streams, taught independently.


a complex term from German thought which means at its simplest level 'education'. The full meaning of the word, however, encompasses a sense of lifelong development in relation to personal, cultural, and social maturation.


the fact of being able to speak two languages, especially native or habitual languages. At one time, such a capacity was deemed to be a drawback for schoolchildren but is now believed to have broad educational benefits.

blended learning

approaches to learning where more than one approach is utilised, or where there are multiple methods employed. It is most commonly used nowadays to cover practice where traditional face-to-face sessions are integrated with technology-centred approaches such as e-learning or online resources or support. As can be seen, it is essentially focused on teaching, rather than learning per se, and the degree of 'blending' may also be highly variable.


marginal; usually refers to assessment where the object of consideration either just meets or just misses the criteria in question.


middle class; often used in a pejorative sense for conventional, materialistic, even philistine values.


a joint approach to the generation of ideas where participants are encouraged to contribute in a spontaneous way. It can be used in problem-solving tasks or in any form of creative activity.


a term used principally in curriculum theory where it refers to the extent to which a curriculum covers a wide range of different subjects or the extent to which one particular subject area is approached through examining disparate issues as opposed to a narrow focus on one aspect (see depth).


an adjective in common use for a learner deemed to be particularly able in one or more subject areas.


a person who mentors or supports a younger or inexperienced colleague. In schools, it is a term often used for a system where older pupils help or befriend new arrivals or younger pupils in general.


descriptive of behaviour where strength, influence or status is used to intimidate or oppress others. It is most normally used of schoolchildren but is recognised as occurring more widely in the workplace, in society at large, and in the family.


a pejorative term for a management system or organisation dominated by excessive rules, numerous officials, complicated procedures, and voluminous paperwork.

buzz session

a short period during a lecture or similar where students are asked to discuss an issue or generate ideas in small groups comprised of other students in the immediate vicinity of where they are seated.