compliance with orders, instruction, and discipline. At one time this was a prime requirement of learners in educational institutions. It now tends to be couched in less stark terms, with more of a collegial, negotiated element, but is still an issue for organisational effectiveness.

objective test

any form of examination where the scoring is not dependent on the marker's judgement or discretion. The choice and nature of the assessment items will have been subject to human involvement, however, and so the exercise is not as value-free and unproblematic as some may suppose.


the intended outcomes of teaching: statements of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of these desired goals. They tend to be more specific than aims, often involving the observable or the measurable. While seen as important for effective teaching, their mechanistic and slavish use has been criticised as leading to a rigid approach which limits the dynamic, exploratory nature of many learning experiences.


a range of philosophical views which have in common the view that there is an external reality which can be directly experienced and perceived. In ethical theory, the view that values and duties hold or persist independently of our views of them (see subjectivism)


the removal of personal opinion, judgement or bias in order to arrive at more precision. It is disputed how much this can be achieved in reality as even the framing of the situation in which objectivity is desired (such as a research project, or an assessment) is subject to subjectiveinfluence.


referring to learners behaviour, where they lose focus on a relevant activity (usually set by the teacher) and engage in irrelevant action or conversation. ( see on-task)

old boy network

a generally pejorative term for the way in which the exclusive social and business relationships of former pupils of certain (usually independent) schools are used to preserve privilege and secure advantage.

old school tie

a generally pejorative term for the system of networking conducted by former pupils of certain (usually independent) schools to secure mutual personal, social and business advantage.

omnibus school

a term from early 20th century Scottish education for a comprehensive state secondary school which served as the common school for an area. Similar schools in England and Wales were known as multilateral schools.


referring to learners behaviour, where they remain focused on the specifics of a relevant activity, as set by the teacher (see off-task).

open education

provision which aims to remove barriers to knowledge and resources (see open learning), sometimes through easily-accessible online materials (see Mooc) or through providing open educational resources which can be used, re-used, or re-purposed without cost or permission.

open plan

an approach to organisation associated with progressive education whereby individual classrooms are replaced by larger more flexible teaching areas, allowing for different groupings of learners and different roles for staff. Perceived benefits are countered by those who point for the need for much more extensive planning to co-ordinate activities and avoid situations where a music lesson, for example, occurs at the same time as an activity requiring silence. It is also a term used for office space, where staff are accommodated in larger communal areas as opposed to having individual offices. Unless staff are expected to be working in teams at all times, the advantages of this approach are not clear except in terms of efficiency of space and managerial surveillance.

open question

a question that is phrased so that more extended responses are required than a single word answer (see closed question; divergent; open-ended).


of a question, not inviting a single, correct answer; divergent. Of a contract, not having a set time limit ( see divergent; open question).


a term from the work of Jean Piaget (1896-1980), referring to a mental process by which a learner can combine, separate, and transform information in a logical way. In the earlier stages of learning, Piaget uses the term preoperational to refer to the way in which such a learner is confused by appearance, struggles to decentre their thinking, and muddles issues about causation and consequences, owing to a nonlogical approach.


spoken. Some assessments take this form: for example, the viva voce for higher degrees such as PhD. It is not be confused with aural, which refers to hearing, and with related forms of assessment, particularly in foreign language teaching.

outdoor education

planned educational experiences which take place beyond an institutional setting, often involving resources and activities suited to setting, such as sports, crafts and camping, and so sometimes involving residential arrangements.

outstation learning

an educational programme which is run in a location distant from the central institution involved. It is common in rural Australia, particularly in relation to serving the needs of indigenous communities.


to practise skills beyond the point where proficiency has been reached; to repeat, or seek to memorise, material even after it can be fully recalled. Overlearning is reputed to be valuable to aid recall over time. It is said to be helpful in language learning and as a strategy for some with certain learning difficulties.