Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition

any of a range of theories which lay stress on the nation-state either in terms of pursuing  self-determination - political independence national liberation - or by promoting the nation-state and duties towards it. Fascism is an extreme form which elevates the nation-state and demands devotion from its citizens. Ethnic forms of nationalism emphasise issues of race religion and culture rather than the state as political unit. Another strand of nationalism involves feelings of superiority over other countries.

natural selection

a term from the work of Charles Darwin (1809-82) for the phenomenon whereby organisms better suited to their environment survive flourish and reproduce (in contrast to weaker ones). Sometimes known as 'the survival of the fittest' (see social Darwinism).


a philosophical outlook which views reality as natural rejecting any sense of the supernatural. It rejects the idea of divinity and is opposed to  idealism and metaphysics.


that which exists from birth hereditary inborn essence.

nature-nurture controversy

dispute about the extent to which human development is determined by inherited capacities (nature) or by experience and environmental influence (nurture). The argument seems irresolvable but that both have an influence seems beyond dispute.

necessary condition

a factor which is essential for another phenomenon to exist but may not be sufficient to achieve it alone. For example having a writing implement is a necessary condition for good writing to take place but simply having a writing implement does not guarantee the quality of the subsequent writing (see sufficient condition).

necessary truth

see a priori.


educational provision is often designed with the aim of meeting learners' needs - their requirements or even wishes. However this is a matter of perception and also of values: analysing what is seen to be in the interests of the learner and from these selecting what is seen as educationally important or valuable.

needs hierarchy

a theory of motivation developed by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) which postulates that humans have a range of needs which can be placed in rank order from basic survival to complete fulfilment. Lower needs cease to motivate once satisfied but higher needs cannot motivate until lower ones are met.

negative liberty

a term from the work of Isaiah Berlin (1907-97) which refers to the absence of external restraint. Having negative liberty means that one is free to act. However, one still may not be able to act because of a lack of capacity, power, or ability and this is where Berlin introduces the concept of 'positive liberty' which is the capacity to act as one would wish. For example, any school leaver is free to spend a gap year abroad, if they so wish - negative liberty - but it is probably only those with sufficient money, confidence, support, and physical health who are actually able to do this - positive liberty.


a variant of modern conservatism which is noted for its activism and missionary zeal seeking to promote and promulgate globally issues relating to individual freedom democracy the free market and capitalist ideology generally. It is opposed to social liberalism and upholds what are termed traditional family values instead


a modern development in liberalism marked by its devotion to free markets and critical of state planning intervention regulation and control. It has also been influential in promoting market concepts within the public sector introducing competition and public choice.


process or activity of making strategic personal or professional connections with others.

new managerialism

a business  approach adopted by elements in the public sector noted by a customer-oriented focus and a stress on efficiency cost-effectiveness competition corporate planning and performance evaluation. It is criticised widely particularly for its administrative rather than educational emphasis.

new right

a strand of conservative thinking dating from the 1980s with a strong focus on neoliberalismmatched by social conservatism. Key ideas are a strong market orientation privatisation of public services weakening of the welfare state promotion of the family and reactive policies on crime.

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