Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
action plan

a systematic outline of the tasks and responsibilities involved in achieving an objective.

action research

a form of research generally undertaken by a practitioner ( for example a teacher) where the focus is their own work and environment with the aim being to increase understanding and improve practice.

active learning

an approach which involves the learner doing something more than simply passively receiving what is taught. Cognitively it may involve some form of mental processing aimed at an output of some sort but more usually it refers to an actual practical activity where something is performed made or worked on by making use of or creating the new learning.


both Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and John Dewey (1859-1952) stress learning as an adaptive process whereby the learner makes adjustments in response to interaction with the environment physical and social. Learning enables one to proceed successfully as a result of such adaptation. Paulo Freire (1921-1997) disliked the term as he felt  it lacked a sufficient sense of agency and he preferred to use the term 'integrative' to show the way in which the learner when free not only responds to but is able to act upon the environment.


a term form the work of Alvin Toffler (b. 1928) for an organisation with a fast-moving administrative and managerial style which aims to be more flexible and reactive and to avoid the static routines of bureaucracy.'ad hoc' is a Latin term meaning 'to this' so indicative of a temporary or specific activity or arrangement.


the management and direction of an organisation: in education it can refer to classroom institutional and system levels.


the period of human development  between childhood and adulthood. It involves the reaching of puberty and roughly corresponds to the teenage years. The personal social and biological changes involved can make it a difficult transitional time for the individual.

adult education

courses often of an informal nature aimed at learners beyond the immediate school-leaver cohort. Some may be for interest or pleasure but others lead to qualifications. They can be offered in different models including extra-mural classes distance learning within the community or as weekend and summer schools.

advance organiser

a term from the work of David Ausubel (b. 1918) for any device used at the beginning of a learning experience which aims to alert the learner to what is to follow or to prepare them to process new material more effectively.


pertaining to the emotions feelings and attitudes. In recent times the significant role of the affective in learning situations and educational institutions generally has been the subject of increased attention.

affirmative action

a form of positive discrimination where extra resources and/or privileged treatment is afforded to selected minority or disadvantaged groups with the goal of enabling them to achieve educational parity with more dominant social groups.


the ability to make choices and have the power to act upon one's environment. A sense of agency is seen as important for learner motivation and indeed for teacher morale.


the practice in assessment of collating results from a number of disparate activities according to some agreed weighting to achieve a single overall assessment figure.


statements of broad educational purposes or intentions. Objectives tends to refer to narrower more specific goals in terms of what a learner may be able to do as a result. Some critics view this as too tied to behaviourist theory while others such as John Dewey warned of the danger that a rigid adherence to pre-set aims may foster a mechanical approach to teaching.


a term from Marxist philosophy referring to the feeling that people experience of being estranged from key aspects of their social existence. Examples would include a feeling of powerlessness within society or of being depersonalised within some large faceless bureaucracy. In the educational world some teenagers who find the school system its processes and demands to be out of line with their own lives and cultural identity and to be beyond their power to influence experience alienation as a result.

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