Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition

the practice of assigning a grade or descriptor to a learner based on perceived characteristics of that learner. It is now recognised as being both highly unreliable and also counterproductive as labels may induce self-fulfilling prophecies or if communicated have negative effects on learners' attitudes and motivation.

lad o' pairts

a term from Scottish educational history referring to the young boy from humble origins who demonstrates academic talent and is able to achieve success owing to an (allegedly) open educational system.


A term from French politics referring to the separation of church and state. In educational terms, it means the attempt to keep religion, or religious practice, out of the school system. In recent times it has provoked controversy as it has been invoked in attempts to prevent the wearing of religious symbols in schools. This commitment to a secular education system is also found in Turkey and some other countries.

Aliases (separate with |): laicite

originally this referred to the policy or doctrine of political non-interference in economic affairs allowing unregulated 'free enterprise'. It is now more generally used for any approach marked by non-interference minimal restriction or reluctance to exert control.

latch-key child

a term dating from the 1960s for a school pupil unsupervised after school usually because parents or caregivers are  working but who is given a house-key so access to the home is possible. The phenomenon was viewed by some as indicative of lack of parental supervision and care.

lateral thinking

creative thinking producing ideas which are not obvious or plainly derivative.

lay inspector

an individual not from a background within the educational system or establishment who takes part in inspections alongside professional inspectors. Originally the role was to offer an independent viewpoint designed to counter any professional collusion or bias.


the exercise of authority in directing or managing the work of others. It has lately become a key focus because of its deemed importance in effecting positive change in schools. Clearly there are other relevant issues to consider: professional knowledge and understanding values and morality. The ability to make change happen will only improve schools if that change has merit regardless of the leadership skills employed.

leadership class

a term from the work of Walter Humes (b.1945) referring to the small group of professionals and bureaucrats who wield power over Scottish education. It is used in contrast with the perceived pluralism of a policy community.

league tables

lists of school performance in various categories created or published to aid accountability and to inform parents and other interest groups. Their fairness appropriateness value in driving up standards or role in assisting parental choice of school are all questionable.

learned helplessness

a psychological term for a complete sense of powerlessness where the individual feels owing to bad experiences that no action of theirs can alter their position or achieve success.


a vast literature surrounds this topic and much debate linked to rival theories which address it. The least controversial that can be said of the term is that it refers to some sort ofcognitive behavioural or affective change or development in the individual associated with interaction with external forces.

learning analytics

the collection and analysis of a range of data about learners and their contexts with the purpose of adapting and improving the learning environment in response. It is more common in the USA. It has been criticised for risking a mechanistic approach to student experience and an unduly quantitative perspective on learning.

learning cell

a teaching approach whereby a group of learners study together largely self-directed for a particular purpose and over an agreed time-span.

learning commons

the integration of various student services within an academic library. It typically involves the availability of traditional research and reference facilities but combined with access to modern technology of various forms. In some cases, provision is also made for students to socialise and so noise toleration is much more liberal than in the past.

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