Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition

moral principles rules of conduct the branch of philosophy dealing with human conduct and related theories about what is right wrong good and bad.

ethnic minority

a group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions or identity from the majority population.


the scientific description of specific human societies or cultures. As a branch of educational research it is marked by its concern to understand or present phenomena from the particular cultural or social perspectives of those being studied.


a common but ill-defined term for the characteristic spirit or climate of an institution department or other category of division. It is a mix of attitudes relationships approach and style. It was first made popular when identified as an important factor in schools to counteract the negative effects on attainment of socioeconomic disadvantage. It is now in more general use related to the school effectiveness and improvement agenda.


the study of causation, of why things occur. Etiological issues are important in educational research when trying to pick out key factors in some phenomenon, or in discriminating between causation and mere correlation. For example, a study may struggle to determine if reading for pleasure activity contributes to reading ability or if it is reading ability that leads to more reading for pleasure. As with many etiological issues in education, the answer may not be clear-cut.


the study of the original roots of words. It can give rise to a type of fallacy where the original meaning of a word is used in claims to reject or counter current usage or to attempt to limit its application. An example would be if the fact that education comes from the Latin word 'educare' meaning 'to lead out' is then fallaciously used to attempt to limit current meanings to that sense   or to discount alternative usages of the word.


the science of race 'improvement' involving controlled breeding to attempt to increase the likely occurrence of desired inherited characteristics. It is deeply unpopular and derided being associated with Nazi and fascist ideology.


assessment. The term is often used in education relating to judgements about the effectiveness of practice policy or about professional competence.


that which tends to prove or disprove something grounds for belief or action data which can be used to support decisions or courses of action.


in education of practice or policy - founded on or taking cognisance of best available research.


a (formal) test usually for the purposes of summative assessment.


the quality of being extremely good or of the highest standard. It can be attributed in norm-referenced  criterion-referenced and ipsative senses.


the process or fact of keeping someone or something out or of denying access. In school terms it mostly refers to the practice of refusing to allow a pupil to attend school for a period as a disciplinary sanction. Politically social exclusion refers to a degree of deprivation which denies individuals and groups access to a good quality of life.


a complex philosophical trend which emphasises each individual person as free and responsible for their own decisions and development. It challenges rationalist and empiricist views of humanity.


in education beliefs that a learner will or should achieve some goal. Research evidence has been used to suggest that such beliefs can be powerful factors in influencing successful learning and that low expectations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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