measures or penalties designed in response to poor pupil behaviour in school, or more generally as planned consequences for rule-breaking in any sphere, or designed to end rule-breaking and enforce compliance.


a term from the work of Lev Vygotsky (1896 -1934) which refers to the support given by a teacher, or more experienced learner, to enable another learner construct and develop new knowledge.


an institution established for a number of purposes including educational provision.

school effectiveness

the term for an area of educational research which aims to study and identify aspects of schooling which make a difference, looking at such issues as ethos, management style,leadership, and school policies. One result has been the itemising of the characteristics of an effective school and this has itself been the subject of some dispute by those who feel issues to do with a school's socioeconomic context, the nature of its intake, and school composition are given insufficient attention in such an approach.

school phobia

the condition of having an extreme fear of going to school. It can affect teachers as well as learners.


a term for the education system as it applies to the primary and secondary sectors. It is a worthwhile term as it creates a distinction from education itself which is one of the aims of schooling, a political creation (see deschooling).


usually applied to the research method which begins with observation, the development of a hypothesis, and the testing of the hypothesis through experiment. This process may then be repeated as desired or required.


testing for, or identifying, certain characteristics in objects or people.

seamless learning

this usually refers to the adaption of educational material for mobile devices so that the student can continue learning activity, regardless of location and time.

secondary education

schooling provided for those beyond primary school age. One distinguishing feature from the primary school is the increased use of subject specialists and of timetabling according to such. Attempts to move towards a more integrated, cross-curricular approach have largely been unsuccessful, although this can feature in the early stages of secondary.


the temporary transfer of an employed person to another position of employment, institution, or organisation. In education a typical example would be from a school to a local authority role or from a teaching role to a position within some educational organisation.


bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint. As it is most commonly used in a religious context, the word has been more precisely defined as narrow-minded beliefs that lead to prejudice, discrimination, malice and ill-will towards members, or presumed members, of a religious denomination.


in education, it refers to a distinct part or branch such as the primary sector or the independent sector. Education is itself a sector of government and is part of the public sector as opposed to the private sector.


not pertaining to anything religious, spiritual or sacred; related to nonreligious subjects. While atheistic means denying the existence of God, secular simply means not dealing with such matters and is thus more neutral.


the process by which learners are admitted to an educational institution on the basis of criteria or standards, usually in the form of an attainment test. It is widely practised in private schools but has not been in favour in the state system for some time, although elements of it have been re-introduced in England. Tertiary education tends to use it as the norm.

selective schools

educational establishments where entry is based on some standard (usually an academic test) which means that some applicants are accepted and others rejected.


an idea of the self based on the beliefs one holds and the responses of others.


confidence in one's worth or abilities; self-respect.

self-fulfilling prophecy

a prediction that causes or influences itself to become true; causing something to happen by believing it is true. In education, an example would be a belief that certain individuals will not perform well in school which may bring itself about, in fact, if relevant individuals believe it sufficiently as to affect their beliefs, motivation, and action (see Pygmalion effect).


regard for one's own advantage or benefit (usually, with a disregard for others).


of, or pertaining to, meaning (of words or other symbols).


applied to something highly original or influencing future developments. In educational contexts, it may be used of an idea, concept, approach, or publication, for example.


referring to the basic human capacities for sensory awareness and movement. It is the earliest stage in the genetic epistemology of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) where the child develops understanding of the connections between sense perception and actions (see concrete operational; formal operational; preoperational).


an approach to organising learners by ability in particular subject areas. Because it is dependent on perceived ability within a subject, a learner may be in a more able group in one area and in a less able group in another (see mixed ability, streaming, broad band).

single-loop learning

from the work of Chris Argyris (1923-2103), this involves corrective action which changes the means but not the ends of a given situation. The goal remains the same as before but single-loop learning involves altering what is done to achieve that goal, perhaps through perfecting or changing the techniques employed (see also double-loop learning)


a theory that human behaviour is determined by contextual circumstances rather than by personal qualities; a theory that views modern industrial society as necessarily oppressive and exploitative.


the failure to meet a standard or deadline. It is also used of irrelevant activity during an educational task - for example, in a group discussion where conversation deviates from the set topic.

social capital

a term from the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) which refers to the sum of resources held by a group or individual by virtue of possessing a network of (valuable) relationships.

social class

a grouping in society which share the same broad, economic, social, and cultural status. It is still hugely influential in educational outcomes (see middle class; working class)

social construct(ion)

a concept, term, or category created by humans in society as a way of making sense of experience but which may not have objective reality or existence in nature (see socially constructed)

social constructivism

a term originating in the work of Lev Vygostky (1896-1934) for the process by which the child or learner comes to construct and understand experience through a reciprocal relationship with the social environment. Although sharing much of the constructivist thinking of Jean Piaget (1896-1980), it lays more stress on the social nature of the creation of knowledge and how culture affects perceptions.

social contract

an implicit (theoretical) agreement by members of society to cooperate for mutually beneficial purposes and to sacrifice certain elements of individual liberty in return for state protection. It features in the work of such theorists as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau as a way of explaining and justifying political obligation, such as the duty to keep laws.

social control

in education, the way schools are said to impose on learners values, attitudes, and behaviours which suit dominant political and cultural forces. Schools are thus seen as a means by which the social status quo is maintained.

social Darwinism

the theory that humans both as individuals and groups are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Darwin found in plants and animals. So, it is held that human development also demonstrates such phenomena as the 'survival of the fittest'.

social democracy

a political theory which advocates, or a system of, socialist government achieved by democratic means rather than revolution.

social imaginary

the ways in which people understand their social existence: how they fit with others, how they interact, and the expectations they hold; a common understanding that enables everyday social practices. It may be largely implicit but may also include a normative element, of how things ought to be.

social loafing

the phenomenon of an individual contributing less to a group activity than would be expected. Other similar terms are 'passenger' or 'free rider', in cases where the person seeks benefit merely through reliance on the efforts of others in the group.

social pedagogy

a term more common in mainland Europe for the work of professionals dealing with the care and welfare of children and youth. It is a holistic approach, supporting and fostering the personal development, social education and overall welfare and care of the whole child (or, sometimes, young adult). One of its principles is that it is possible, and desirable, to influence social circumstances and positive social change through education.

social welfare

social services provided for citizens by government. It includes such things as national insurance, unemployment benefits, pensions, health care, disability payments.

social work

any of several professions providing services to those with a variety of needs in society, such as children, the poor, those with mental health problems, the elderly, and the vulnerable.


the process whereby individuals come to act in a way which is acceptable to, and in tune with, their society. It is sometimes used in a less general sense referring to behaviour within institutions (such as schools) and professions (such as teaching).


belief in, or the fact of, collective ownership of the means of production and distribution in contrast with capitalist notions of private ownership, profit, and competition. The term encompasses a wide range of theories.

socially constructed

of an idea, concept, or term, indicating that it is not an empirically observable fact but simply a way of understanding the world as developed by human thought within a shared cultural perspective (see social construction).


social mode of life; the customs and organisation of a civilised nation.


the study of the biological, evolutionary, aspects of social behaviour in animals and humans.

socioeconomic status

position of an individual or group in terms of their social and economic standing. It is a key factor in educational outcomes: the higher the status the better chance of good outcomes; the lower the status the greater chance of poorer outcomes.


of an approach to behaviour management, and relationships, which focuses on finding solutions to problems as opposed to punitive action.

special education

educational provision designed for those with particular needs beyond those possessed by the majority of learners of the same age. It may be aimed at meeting particular needs related to cognitive, physical, sensory, emotional, social or psychological issues. The word 'special' has lost favour and more neutral terms such as 'additional support' may be used.

specialist schools

schools which provide specialised teaching or support in a particular curriculum area, usually in addition to rather than instead of the general curriculum They are typically associated with sports, culture, and the arts - thus, dance schools or music schools.


the presentation of material with a positive slant or in a manner designed to elicit a favourable public reception ( see rhetoric).

spiral curriculum

a term from the work of Jerome Bruner (b.1915) which refers to the way in which areas of learning are revisited systematically within a planned curriculum so that more detailed and more complex activity can be undertaken and related knowledge and skills develop.


an acronym for 'small, private on-line course', a more modest variation of the mooc, where numbers are restricted and so the potential for at least a degree of monitoring and support is increased. it is thought that this development may lead to the formal validation of such courses, leading to accreditation and qualifications.(see mooc)

staff development

any activity which promotes the personal or professional growth of teachers or other educational employees. Typical activities would be aimed at improving relevant skills and competences.

standard deviation

in statistics, a measure of the variability of the distribution about a mean. A small standard deviation figure would indicate that most results cluster about the mean, whereas a higher score would indicate a much wider deviation.


organised political community under one government; civil government.


numerical facts systematically collected, or the science of such. They do not 'tell' anyone anything per se: it is how they are interpreted that is key.

Steiner schools

private schools run according to the philosophical principles of Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). His approach, also called the Waldorf method, lays emphasis on feelings and values and on artistic and practical activities. There is also a strong spiritual, transcendental element to his thinking (see anthroposophy).


a fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. It can often indicate underlying prejudice or unfairness.


a concept central to behaviourist theories of learning which assumes that behaviour occurs in response to stimuli and that all learning can be understood within this basic model.

strategic learning

a utilitarian approach to study where attention is only paid to aspects viewed to be important for extrinsic reasons such as exams (see deep learning, surface learning).


a response, which may have physical as well as psychological manifestations, to threatening or overly demanding situations. For learners, it can be a major barrier in learning; for teachers and other professionals both a limit to their effectiveness and a major challenge to their wellbeing.


an intellectual movement which flourished in the 20th century in a range of domains such as linguistics, literary theory, and sociology. The key linking concept is that understanding phenomena involves understanding their place within the overall structures of which they are a part (social, political, economic, textual, for example).


a term deemed to be less problematic than pupils in that it is less heavily influenced by power relations. It is commonly used now for learners at secondary school as opposed to being only used for those at the tertiary level. It is less obviously relevant to primary-aged children for whom the word 'pupils' tends to remain. 'Student' is related to the verb 'to study' which may make its appropriateness questionable in some cases.


of a curriculum, institution, or educational approach which is structured according to, or dependent on, subject departments or subject divisions. It is often used pejoratively by those who favour a more integrated approach.


the name given to a range of theories that hold, essentially, that moral judgements are expressions of personal taste (see objectivism).


that which represents, or the fact of demonstrating, a personal or individual view, judgement, or perspective (see objectivity).


coherent bodies of knowledge (see disciplines, domains, forms of knowledge). Educational provision, particularly beyond the primary sector, has traditionally been organised around the content of subject areas : mathematics, science, language, etc. (see subject-centred).

sufficient condition

something whose existence or presence is enough to guarantee that of another. A necessary condition must be in place for the thing in question to be, but is not enough to guarantee it. For example, sitting an exam may be a necessary condition for passing it but clearly is not a sufficient condition.

SWOT analysis

an approach by an organisation - such as a school or department - to self-evaluation which seeks to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (hence the acronym).


a form of deductive reasoning where a conclusion is necessarily drawn from two premises or propositions. For example, All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.

symbolic interactionism

a complex theory in social psychology that stresses the symbolic nature of human interaction and the role of language in the formation of mind, self, and society. Social reality and human behaviour are understood as symbolic, communicated, and subjective. It was developed by G.H.Mead (1863-1931).


dealing with (study or analysis of) a phenomenon as it exists at one point in time (seediachronic).


a term used for smaller groups organised within a tutorial or seminar group.


a term used rather loosely but properly referring to the regular occurrence of a group of symptoms such that a condition can be identified. The term is also sometimes used to describe characteristic behaviour or attitudes, such as 'Monday morning' syndrome to refer to typical feelings associated with the start of the working week.


combined or co-operative action such that the joint result is more than the sum of what individuals could have achieved separately.

systematic review

a form of research which attempts to analyse existing research evidence within a given field with a view to establishing some form of generalisation. It is common in medicine and the sciences but more controversial in education because of the difficulty of finding research which has been conducted in matching or similar contexts.


relating to a whole system, as opposed to one sector or aspect. Systemic racism, for example, would refer to problems in the education system as a whole rather than simply isolated or distinct instances.