In every profession there are terms, phrases, and abbreviations that are common knowledge only to insiders. For the rest of us, the lingo can be very confusing. This glossary is intended to offer simple explanations of what are sometimes complex issues in education. It is far from complete but may help you better understand important trends and topics. Bear in mind that the meaning of many of these terms may vary, even from school district to school district.
Cluster teaching is also referred to as team teaching. In this method, teachers on the same grade level work together to teach their favorite subjects. If there are only two teachers involved, one might teach math for both classes while the other teaches reading. For science and social studies, teachers may set up experiments, projects, and displays in one classroom and have the children move back and forth.
This word refers to the process of thinking and knowing. The term is used to differentiate between conscious thoughts and unconscious actions such as blinking, which is involuntary, and running from fire, which is instinctive. Educators often refer to cognitive development as it relates to brain functions such as learning to read, write, and compute mathematical figures. These actions are neither unconscious nor instinctive.
Collaborative education (also called cooperative learning) is a method in which the teacher expects students to cooperate on a group project for a common grade. In a group of four students working on an oral report, for example, one child may take on the responsibility of researching facts, another child of conducting experiments, another of creating posters or charts, and the fourth of actually presenting the findings. All of the children would be working on a common topic and would receive a common grade for their project. In simpler settings, collaborative education might mean simply pooling ideas, brainstorming, or helping each other to complete an activity.
Core knowledge refers to the basic knowledge that professional educators believe every person should know in order to be considered educated. Core knowledge differs from grade to grade and from state to state, but in general it refers to society's standards of knowledge of history, maps, mathematics, literature, the arts, and science.
A criterion-referenced test produces a test score based on what was taught in the classroom and covered on the test. The criterion-referenced test tells the instructor and parents the amount, quality, or depth of information or skills the child has mastered. It is unlike the norm-referenced test, which produces a score intended to compare the child with other children that have taken the same test.
The curriculum is the map of everything the teacher is supposed to teach for the year. Curriculums are usually established by the school district under the guidelines of the state legislature and in cooperation with national organizations that develop standards for particular subjects, such as the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.