tabula rasa

a Latin term meaning 'blank slate' ('scraped tablet', literally), referring to the mind, unaffected by experience. It comes from the theories of John Locke who held that learning came from experience, that the child's mind was essentially empty until affected by experience (see empiricism). It is associated with the idea of the mind as passively receptive to learning, with limited reference to its active capacity (see passive learning,instructivism, transmission, banking model).


a piece of work or assignment expected to be tackled by a learner.


the science or principles of classification; ordered division into groups or categories ( seeBloom's taxonomy).

teacher education

policies, procedures, and programmes designed to assist teachers in the development of appropriate professional knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours. Initial teacher education refers to programmes for student teachers prior to full registration and employment. Ongoing development for qualified professionals is normally referred to as continuous professional development.


any of a host of activities which have in common the structuring of a situation to enablelearning to take place.


in education, a group of individuals associated in some sort of joint action. It may be on a permanent basis or set up for some specific time and purpose.

team teaching

an approach to teaching where two or more teachers combine to teach a class or group jointly. It is similar to co-operative teaching but differs in that team teaching involves a unified, shared approach as opposed to one teacher leading.

technical education

a subject discipline which covers such areas as craft and design, graphic design, and technology. It traditionally dealt with such topics as woodwork, metalwork, and mechanics.

technical rationalism

a term from the work of Donald Schön (1930-97) for an approach (to teaching), derived from positivism, which sees practice as involving the simple application of solutions from research to generic problems. He contrasted that with his own preferred notion of the 'reflective practitioner' where being professional involves much more thought, considered reflection on one's practice, awareness of context, and the importance of all these in defining the problem in the first place, problem-setting, rather than mere problem-solving using strategies devised by others elsewhere.


government or management by technical experts or scientists. In education, it often refers to management of the system or an institution which prioritises economic, technical, or bureaucratic efficiency over educational ideals.


theory that phenomena can be best explained in terms of purpose, intention, or design.


a coherent group of propositions used as principles for the explanation of some phenomenon. It is stronger than a hypothesis which is a conjecture still to be tested whereas a theory has more weight in terms of its credibility.


an extended academic essay written to fulfil the requirements of a higher degree. More generally, it is a term used for a position taken by an author on a topic, which is promoted or explored in the text.

think tank

an organisation or body providing (expert) advice and ideas to government.

three Rs

reading, writing, and arithmetic - seen traditionally as central concerns of the curriculum (see basics). Reckoning - counting - may well be the original third 'r', as opposed to arithmetic.


a form of highly ambitious, strict, and demanding parenting which involves strong pressure on the child to achieve and excel academically. The term is drawn from the work of Amy Chua (b.1962)

time management

any of a number of approaches which individuals, groups, or organisations employ or practise designed to make best use of time, through such things as prioritising, streamlining activities, or developing effective short-cuts. It aims to avoid duplication and wasted effort, and to reduce effects of workload and stress.


a catalogue or schedule which indicates the programme of classes or activities for learners and staff. It may be set for a full academic year or alter termly, or even more regularly.


young children at the stage of beginning walking. Toddlers' groups usually are for 2 year-olds.


any insincere attempt to meet with regulations or policy requirements, marked by superficial or limited compliance, without any commitment. There is normally enough done to avoid any sanctions, but not enough to have much effect. It is most commonly used in relation to equal opportunities in employment. In education, it can relate to a range of other contexts, such as tokenism relating to consultation, learner-centredness, school councils, or the purchase and use of textbooks to meet policies on racial and gender equality.


descriptive of a management approach where ideas, decisions or policy originate at the highest level of institutional hierarchy and are then communicated to other staff without further input.


subject-matter which is used as a focus for learning. In primary schools it is often the unifying theme for a range of disparate curricular activities.

total curriculum

all of the experiences, planned and unplanned, which a learner encounters in an educational institution.


a form of government which brooks no opposition and demands subservience of the individual to the state.


a system intended to follow and plot the progress of learners and so identify areas of strength, weakness or where action may be deemed appropriate. In the USA it refers to setting.

trade union

an organised association of workers in a trade, sector, or profession formed for the protection and advancement of their common interests. Teacher unions are sometimes referred to as 'professional organisations' to distinguish them from unions' historical link with more manual or industrial workers.


a form of learning often distinguished by being for a particular skill or set of skills. It can be marked by narrowness and a lack of learner reflection and so it is often viewed negatively compared to terms such as learning or education (see instruction).


in philosophy, beyond experience. It is associated with the Kantian idea of a priori elements which condition human knowledge, which make it possible to understand experience in the first place.


any one of a number of philosophical theories which hold that the principles of reality are to be found in the study of thought, emphasizing the intuitive and the spiritual above the empirical.


in psychoanalysis, the shift of emotions or feelings from one person or object to another. Thus, attachment to or rejection of a parent, may be transferred to reaction to a teacher.


a move from one educational sector to another such as that from primary school to secondary school. Such changes are often seen as sources of difficulty and disruption for learners.

transnational education

This refers to educational provision from one country being offered in another. It can take the form of taught programmes, or blended, or online. It is sometimes abbreviated as TNE.  Some are uneasy with one way in which it has evolved, whereby privileged Western universities and colleges make profits from courses run on their behalf in developing or poorer nations, rather than having these same states build indigenous educational capacity.


absence (typically from school) without leave. Condoned absence is a form of truancy where the parent or caregiver approves or connives at the absenteeism. As school attendance is compulsory, truancy can lead to legal consequences.