in philosophy, any theory which stresses the mental, ideas over matter, and so opposed torealism and materialism. An extreme form is that only ideas exist and all reality is a product of the mind.


a system of ideas and beliefs that informs and shapes an understanding of the world, especially in the socio-political sphere.

idiot savant

a French term for a person who has a mental disability or learning difficulties but is extremely gifted in a particular way, or who (occasionally) displays natural wisdom or insight.


an approach to foreign language learning which involves exclusive use of the language, often for an intensive period and sometimes involving little direct teaching.


expressing a command; compulsory; essential. As a noun it is also used to mean something which must be addressed or attended to: thus, an imperative facing a school or education authority might be to achieve a balanced budget.


suggested, assumed or implied without being directly expressed or stated (see explicit).


development or change (especially in performance) that meets with approval. In education it is particularly associated with gains made by an individual learner as measured by assessment tests. It is, however, notoriously difficult to determine the key causal factors which contribute to such improvement.

in loco parentis

a Latin, legal term meaning 'in the place of the parents'. In educational contexts, it refers to the role of teachers in assuming the duties and responsibilities of a parent towards young people in their charge.


in educational contexts, the process or fact of increasing the participation of all learners within the system as a whole, or within the curriculum, culture, and community of particular establishments. Most commonly, it involves developing or offering a single form of educational provision for all learners - regardless of ability. Thus, learners who would previously have been sent to separate institutions for a variety of reasons are included within one overall set-up. There may continue to be specialist institutional provision for those with particularly pronounced needs but the assumption is that all learners will be provided for within the one system. This brings with it certain challenges relating to resources, staff expertise, class sizes, and equality - trying to balance the needs of the individual with the common good. More broadly, inclusion can relate to similar issues of participation and equity relating to race, culture, language, ethnicity, social class, wealth, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation.

independent school

a school, typically fee-paying, which is privately run, as opposed to one run by the state. In England, such schools are unhelpfully termed public schools; in Scotland, private schools.

individualised learning

a term used imprecisely but which most commonly refers to the provision of particular learning activities or programmes of study designed, or intended, to meet an individual learner's specific needs or requirements. Identifying such needs accurately is problematic and there is also the danger of inequity being created if some learners are offered inferior or undemanding educational experiences as a result.


any theory or outlook which places more value on the person than on the group, which puts more importance on individual experience and effects than on collective issues.


a process or activity designed to introduce a learner to a new environment, experience, or area of learning. In logic, the word means the creation of a general rule or principle from study of observed instances or detailed facts (see deduction).

infant school

an institution providing education for the very young child. In the USA, 'infant' education covers the years from birth until three years, whereas in the UK the first two years of primary education, from ages five until seven years, can be termed 'infant'.

informal curriculum

a term used for those school activities which may take place, often on a voluntary basis, outside the timetabled curriculum. Typical examples would be lunchtime and after-school clubs of various sorts, school trips, holiday clubs. Some see the distinction as a false one but it could be said that they are distinguished by rarely, if ever, involving explicit 'learning outcomes' or assessment, for example (see extracurricular).

information technology

the study or use of systems (especially computers) for storing, retrieving or communicating information.

initial teacher education

the modern term for teacher training, aimed to avoid the more narrow connotations of training by stressing the more expansive nature of education. The term also aims to indicate that this sort of development does not cease at the pre-service stage but that all teachers will be expected to be involved in continuing professional development. Undergraduate courses are either 3 or 4 years in length, while courses for graduates are generally of one year's duration. Part-time and distance versions are also now on offer.


existing from birth; inborn. Perennial educational debate centres around the extent to which certain skills, aptitudes, and abilities are inborn, and thus the extent to which they susceptible to teaching, if at all (see nature-nurture).


the formal name for the body of inspectors, set up to report on educational provision and give advice to government. In recent times, the inspectorate has also assumed a role in 'improvement', although there remains some tension between its operating procedures, which can be perceived by some as stressful and negative, and that goal.

instructional rounds

a form of collaborative professional development, based on the 'medical rounds' model in hospitals. Here, teachers visit a classroom or other teaching space to observe some agreed aspect of practice. The activity is non-judgemental and non-evaluative: instead, what is observed becomes the subject of analysis and discussion by the observers, with the purpose of improving their own practice.

integrated education

an interdisciplinary approach to teaching or learning, as opposed to a subject-specific one. It is more common in the early stages as later objections are raised that it struggles to develop the depth of understanding within subject domains, and also is less easy to fit to an assessment system aimed to certificate within subject disciplines. Clearly, a change to an integrated assessment system would meet that charge, but the problem of addressing depth of disciplinary knowledge remains (see cross-curricular).


the term previously used for inclusion but now less common owing to its suggestion that the learner had to adapt to the school system instead of the school adjusting to the learner's needs.


A term from the work of Paulo Freire (1921-1997) for the way in which an emancipated learner can act upon, as well as respond to, the environment, both physical and social (seeadaptation).


a complex and controversial term which has a range of definitions. At its simplest it refers to mental ability or capacity. Intelligence testing was common in the 20th century, it being believed that it was both possible and appropriate to do so, the results being used to categorise individuals for various purposes, such as the nature of educational provision then deemed suitable for each.

intelligence quotient (IQ)

a figure representing a measure of an individual's mental reasoning ability as compared to the average for people of their age (taken as 100).

intelligent design

the view that that life, the universe, cannot have emerged by chance but through creation by some intelligent entity. It thus opposes the theory of evolution but is denied itself the status of theory by some critics in that it is hard to see how it could ever be falsified.


activities or subjects which are seen as relevant, meaningful, desirable, or enjoyable by the learner. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Dewey (1859-1952), sometimes inappropriately, are most associated with the view that education should be tailored to the learner's interests. While there are obvious issues to do with motivation and appropriateness in such a view, account must also be taken of the other purposes of state education, and of the fact that a strict adherence to such a view might lead to some learners remaining within very limited horizons. Some judge the interests of the child merely to be a useful educational starting-point, while others suggest it is a teacher's role to expand the interests of the child.

intergenerational mobility

a key measure of the extent to which the education system improves the life chances of individuals and tackles socioeconomic inequality. It measures the extent to which the offspring of one generation improve their social status or socioeconomic position over time. In unequal stratified societies, mobility tends to be limited whereas in more open, egalitarian societies much more movement of this sort is possible.


in education, an approach to learning where new material is not taught in serial order but in a mixed, or integrated, way.  For example, instead of learning new topics A, B, and C, by focusing first on A, then B, and then C, an interleaved approach would vary the pattern from one to another and back again. It is claimed to aid better retention.Some sceptics argue that its benefits may only apply to certain types of learning, such as factual knowledge.


relating to communication or relationships between people.


any action intended to stop a process from developing or to improve a situation. In education, this occurs in many areas including that of behaviour management and teaching approaches. Research studies into the effects of such interventions are often highly-prized but as with all educational issues the extent to which such interventions can be replicated or the effects generalisable are always questionable (see early intervention).

intrinsic value

having inherent benefit or being prized without reference to any other purpose. Learning of this sort is often valorised because it means it is enjoyable, the activity is not merely being used in some strategic sense, nor is it devalued by being a means to an end. Learning of this sort is also tends to be deeper and more long-lasting (see extrinsic; flow).


a model in the study of personality which places humans along a polar spectrum from extravert (outgoing, physical, social) to introvert (inward-looking, reserved, withdrawn). It is not currently given much credence.


self-referenced. In assessment, this can either mean self-assessment through self-reporting, or, more commonly, using a grading system suited to an individual's personal circumstances (self-referenced), rather than norm-referenced or criterion-referenced.


marked by repetition, particularly a sequenced cycle of activity. It is most commonly used in related to data analysis within research projects where the material is revisited regularly as a means of improving understanding, and the validity of the conclusions being drawn