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.
Pedagogy is the art of teaching or the science of developing teaching methods. In this glossary, Whole Language or Direct Instruction are two examples of opposing pedagogies.
There are two basic ways that we read. One way is through Sight Words, and the other is through the use of phonics, or "sounding out" words. When a child using the phonics method encounters the word "cat," he would make the hard sound of a "c," followed by the "a" sound and then the "t" sound. When those three sounds are blended together, the child says the word "cat."
A portfolio is a collection of activities or projects completed over a period of time. The teacher and parents can judge the child's mastery of information and knowledge by looking at progress through the year. This method of assessment is not widely used because it is space- and time-consuming, but is actually a more realistic and accurate gauge of the child's development than traditional standardized testing. Portfolio assessments are most often used in art or music classes, written expression classes, and science experiments or projects. (See Alternative Assessment.)
In most states, teachers are required to attend classes, seminars, or workshops to gain points toward recertification of their teaching certificates. Professional development courses are intended to provide points that count for this recertification. Most teachers, however, attend these courses just to become better teachers and have far more points than necessary to recertify. Talking with colleagues, reading professional journals, and connecting with other teachers on the Internet are just a few of the ways in which teachers can take part in professional development.
Progress reports are the new name for report cards. They differ slightly in that they are intended to reflect a child's development in social skills, work ethic, and study habits as well as in academic subjects. There is also a place for teacher and parent comments, reflecting the child's progress, not just a grade.