Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
applied research

in education systematic investigative study which aims at providing evidence of practical relevance. It is distinguished from pure research (see action research).


a personnel management term introduced to the public sector. In education it involves an individual undertaking a review of performance and professional development. This is normally done with a senior colleague. It is distinguished from assessment and evaluation but is often viewed by employees as similar.


a formal contracted relationship between an employer and new employee whereby systematic training (for a particular occupation or trade) is guaranteed for a period of time usually under the supervision of an experienced worker. It is less common now in post-industrial Britain.


an individual's potential to acquire skills or knowledge. Although  a prediction   it must be based on current perceived ability and so is prone to numerous  conceptual problems and to bias and inaccuracy.


a term used for certain branches of study such as languages literature philosophy history as distinct from the sciences.


used loosely as a synonym for anti-social but properly distinguished by referring to behaviour and attitudes which take no account of others as distinct from anti-social behaviour which is opposed to social norms or conventions descriptive of a person who cannot interact effectively with other people.

Asperger's syndrome

a pervasive developmental disorder first identified by Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger (1908-1980). It falls within the autistic spectrum and typically involves difficulties with social interaction communication and flexibility of thinking or imagination. There may also be sensory motor and organisational difficulties.

assertive discipline

a popular approach to behaviour management based on a rigid system of rules rewards and consequences (sanctions) which are actively taught to students and consistently enforced. The ultimate goal is that students therefore come to choose to behave as required. It has been subject to some criticism: for example for being a purely behaviourist approach aimed at compliance (on the teacher's terms) where behaviour is conditioned rather than learned or rationally chosen.


any process or means aimed at identifying the knowledge skills or attitudes of a learner.


a learning activity required of a student class or cohort.


a term from the work of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) referring to the way in which a learner can make sense of new experiences by incorporating them into their existing conceptions (seeaccommodation  schema).


what is taken for granted accepted as true. In educational research it is particularly important that unwarranted assumptions do not affect the design of a study or the interpretation of evidence. In teaching assumptions about learners can trigger self-fulfilling prophecies.

at risk

a term used particularly for children and young people whose personal circumstances are deemed to put them in a position where unwanted outcomes (however perceived) may be possible or likely. It is commonly used in reference to child protection issues.


a term for an approach which breaks down a process or activity into its individual parts. It is often criticised for being overly mechanistic especially regarding social activities (such as teaching) or for failing to recognise the bigger broader picture through excessive attention to constituent parts or minutiae.


measured ability level of achievement of a learner ( in some subject area or skill).

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