The art, science and practice of teaching. Alexander (2004) defines it as 'the act of teaching together with its attendant discourse’ (p.11); that discourse consists of the ideas, values and the collective histories surrounding the act of teaching.
Traditionally, skills have been thought of as belonging to either the 'cognitive' or 'affective' domain of learning - roughly thinking and feeling. See for example Bloom's taxonomy (Bloom, B S and Krathwohl, D R, 1956). Affective skills could be associated with sensitivity, empathy or the ability to make subtle distinctions based for example on an awareness of cultural values.
Self-learning; learning without the aid of a teacher. See also heuristic learning and SDL.
A theory suggesting that learning occurs when an environmental stimulus triggers a response or behaviour. Based on classical conditioning theory, behaviourism applies to educational practices that reward performance behaviours to encourage repetition of those behaviours. Rote memorisation and drill-and-practice instruction are supported by behaviourist theory.
Loosely based on the approach described above, the underlying premise is that a child's behaviour can be changed through appropriate systems of reward and punishment 'conditioning' the child into positive behaviour patterns.
Jerome Bruner was born in New York in 1915, his seminal works include The Process of Education (1960), Toward a Theory of Instruction (1966) and The Culture of Education (1996). He is associated with both cognitivism and constructivism, as a reaction to behaviourism. Cognitivism stressed the importance of learner's needs and their expectations in developing cognition, as opposed the mere re-acting to stimuli which characterises behaviourism. Toward a Theory of Instruction was very influential in placing constructivist thought at the centre of educational theory. In constructivism, learning is seen as an active process, where learners construct their knowledge from their experiences.
Refers to the belief that education should revolve around the needs of the individual child - as opposed to discipline-based or discipline-centred education which emphasises the importance of subjects as bodies of knowledge that can be transferred to learners. It is a general term, associated with progressive teaching, and used to denote provision which is designed around sets of assumptions about the needs of the children of a particular age.
Single age classes
A class of pupils, often formed in a school with one form of entry at admission, in which all the pupils have birthdays in the same school year.
Mixed age classes
A class of pupils, common in schools which do not have one, simple form of entry at admission, in which the pupils have birthdays in more than one school year. Mixed age classes are very common in primary schools, particularly in small, rural schools.
Single sex classes
During the nineties there was widespread concern with boys' underachievement compared to girls as shown in school league tables for GCSE results. One strategy believed to combat this, and now practised in some secondary schools, is to have single sex classes which can focus on the interests and learning styles of the single sex group. This strategy is now also used in some primary schools although research is divided about its success.
Withdrawal for specialist help
In many schools children with special educational needs are withdrawn from some classes so that they can work with learning support staff in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.
The class is organised so that pairs of children may work on a task together. This form of organisation lends itself well to computer-based tasks.
Inspired by the work of Jenny Moseley and others this has become an increasingly popular form of whole class co-operation where the class are seated in a circle and take turns to share ideas, feelings and personal stories. It is aimed at promoting children's communication skills as it encourages turn-taking, speaking and listening. It is also perceived to boost children's self-confidence.
An instructional method in which a teacher supports pupils as they perfect old skills and acquire new skills.
The psycho-biological process of thinking and processing information which is involved in all learning by individuals. Often contrasted with affect/affective.
A science investigating how people learn rather than what they learn. Prior knowledge and out-of-classroom experience help form the foundation on which teachers build effective instruction. Also referred to as the study of the mind.
Cognitive skill usually refers to the application of learning based on knowledge of facts together with understanding of underlying principles.
Cognitively guided instruction
An instructional strategy in which a teacher assesses what pupils already know about a subject and then builds on pupils' prior knowledge. Guided questions, encouragement and suggestions encourage pupils to devise solutions to problems and these are then shared with the class.
Collaborative learning [or Cooperative learning]
An instructional approach in which pupils of varying abilities and interests work together in small groups to solve a problem, complete a project, or achieve a common goal. Some see a subtle distinction between the two, with collaborative learning being more 'empowering', i.e. the authority for how the learning evolves remains with the learners, whereas in cooperative learning, there is always an authority figure (the teacher) directing the learning situation. See also learning.
Usually refers to an idea; more specifically a concept is ordered information about the properties of things, events, processes, that enables any particular thing to be differentiated from, and also related to, other things (or classes of things).
This is a theory that suggesting that pupils learn by constructing their own knowledge, especially through hands-on exploration. It emphasises that the context in which an idea is presented, as well as pupil attitude and behaviour, affects learning. Pupils learn by incorporating new information into what they already know. It builds upon principles derived from constructivism.
Constructionism is often divided into two aspects: Social Constructivism (based on the work of, e.g., Vygotsky) and Cognitive Constructivism (based on the work of, e.g., Piaget). Constructivism revolves around the notion that learners construct new knowledge based on their existing knowledge; constructionism builds on this idea by maintaining that this process happens most effectively when the learner is in the process of constructing something. See also Social Constructivism.
See Collaborative learning.
The patterned ways in which teachers and pupils act in classrooms and schools to protect their personal interests and perspectives.
The element of innovation or divergence which a learner is able to apply in a meaningful way to a learning challenge; the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile.
Logical thinking that draws conclusions from facts and evidence.
Critical pedagogy usually refers to educational theories and related teaching and learning practices that are designed to raise learners' critical consciousness regarding what can be seen as oppressive social conditions. Paulo Freire is regarded by many as one of the most influential critical educators; Freire heavily endorses students’ ability to think critically about their education situation. See Torres (1998).
Declarative knowledge, also known as descriptive knowledge, refers to knowing that or what, rather than knowing how. See Procedural knowledge.
A form of teaching with tight teacher control in which knowledge is transmitted to the pupil, who is expected to passively receive it and to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ the knowledge. Closely associated with traditional teaching.
The organisation of teaching programmes and methods specifically to suit the age, ability and aptitudes of individual children.
This usually refers to a situation where learning occurs remotely from the teaching, for example when using technology such as two-way, interactive television; teacher and student(s) in different locations may communicate with one another as in a normal classroom setting.
A classroom strategy based on small group discussion. 'Envoys' from each small group report the discussion from their original group to another group, have further discussion with that group and report back.
A role for classroom teachers that allows pupils to take a more active role in learning. Teachers assist pupils in making connections between classroom instruction and pupils' own knowledge and experiences by encouraging pupils to create new solutions, by challenging their assumptions, and by asking probing questions.
Fitness for purpose
The approach to teaching advocated in a 1992 report on Classroom Practice and Classroom Organisation in Primary Schools by Alexander, Rose and Woodhead, which steps aside from the polarised debates about approaches to teaching which have beset primary education. It argues that all approaches have strengths and weaknesses and that teachers should adopt whatever is likely to be most suitable for their particular educational purpose. There are no easy, 'right' answers.
Generalist class teacher
A teacher who teaches all subjects of the National Curriculum to his or her class of children. Allows great flexibility and is often associated with the statement that ‘I teach children not subjects’. Reflects the assertion of an important quality in the commitment of primary school teachers to the social and emotional development of children. Particularly common in work with young children, where the balance of advantage is seen to lie with generalism and knowing the personalities of the children very well. See Specialist subject teacher
Grapheme-phoneme correspondences. See Synthetic phonics.
A generic term which covers all of the different ways in which teaching groups are organised. See jigsaw, setting, streaming, rainbow. See also ability grouping.
A form of classroom organisation in which individual pupils work in a group on tasks or activities which are similar.
Cooperative group work
A form of classroom organisation in which individual pupils work in a group and contribute to a shared task or activity which has been set for the group as a whole.
Grouping together pupils of varying abilities, interests, or ages.
Learning by discovery. See also Autodidactic learning and SDL.
Questions that require thinking and reflection rather than single-solution responses.
Higher-order thinking skills
Understanding complex concepts and applying sometimes conflicting information to solve a problem, which may have more than one correct answer.
The use of homework is increasing as a strategy for raising standards and for preparing pupils for their SATS at the end of key stage 2. Homework can also be used as way of involving parents in their children's school learning, although not all parents are in a position to assist with the demands of homework.
A form of classroom organisation in which each individual learner is set particular tasks or activities
Knowledge about a topic that children learn through experience outside of the classroom.
A process in which pupils investigate a problem, devise and work through a plan to solve the problem, and propose a solution to the problem.
A hotly contested concept. It is commonly thought to refer to the ability to learn and comprehend. The capability to know, do and understand. Once thought of as being a general capability largely deriving from genetic inheritance, modern thinking suggests the existence of multiple forms of intelligence and of significant social influences on its development. See IQ, Multiple Intelligences.
Intelligence Quotient - Numeric score that attempts to quantify a person's ability to undertake certain cognitive tasks; the population average is said to be 100.
This refers to a grouping strategy, where a topic is divided into sections. In 'home' groups of four or five, pupils allocate a section each, and then regroup into 'expert' groups. In these groups, experts work together on their chosen area, then return to original ‘home’ groups to report back on their area of expertise. The ‘home’ group is then set a task that requires the pupils to use the different areas of expertise for a joint outcome.
Classroom in which pupils are encouraged to choose their own learning goals and projects. This approach is based on the belief that pupils have a natural inclination to learn, learn better when they work on real or authentic tasks, benefit from interacting with diverse groups of people, and learn best when teachers understand and value the difference in how each pupil learns.
The acquisition of knowledge understanding or skill on a relatively permanent basis.
Usually refers to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic modes of learning. Some characteristics:
Visual earners are said to process information better when it is supplied in the visual, such as graphs, pictures, and diagrams.
Auditory learners are said to learn best by listening to conversations or presentations; they learn by listening.
Kinaesthetic learners learn by hands-on practical activities, often preferring working within groups.
This is a statement that describes what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or do as a result of a prescribed learning experience, usually specified in the form of objectives. 'Outcome' is often used synonymously with 'objective’; however, outcomes are dependent upon objectives, whilst objectives lead to outcomes.
Usually refers to four differing styles of learning (Accommodators, Divergers, Convergers and Assimilators), each being a particular preference that learners adopt in the way they learn (see Kolb, 1984). Some characteristics of each style:
Accommodators are said to enjoy change and variety; they are willing to take risks (therefore not too bothered about getting things wrong) and look for excitement and hidden possibilities. On the more negative side, they tend not to plan work and avoid checking and re-working.
Divergers are characteristically imaginative thinkers who draw upon their own personal experiences. They like social interaction and group work. However, they tend to work in short bursts of energy and are easily distracted.
Convergers apply their ideas in a practical way and enjoy solving problems. They like finding out how things work and to try them out in a systematic way. They tend not to be too concerned with the presentation of their work. They have a very practical approach to learning and need to know the practical relevance of tasks given.
Assimilators also like to try things out and they are good at investigating. They are precise and feel happiest when working towards one solution. They work well alone and are not easily distracted, they do not feel as comfortable in group discussion as for example the diverger. They also differ markedly from the diverger by being reluctant to try anything new, doing things in a set way, being overcautious and trusting logic rather than feelings.
A card issued to young people over the age of 16 to remind them of their continued access to careers guidance and information.
A period of time put aside for teaching and learning. In secondary schools, most individual lessons are between thirty-five minutes and an hour; for practical lessons such as art & design, individual lesson are often doubled up. A lesson can take many forms, below are some typical elements of lessons:
An early point of a lesson in which learners are prepared for the topic they are to be taught.
An important, structuring or restructuring element of a lesson in which the teacher clarifies objectives, offers the pupils knowledge, skill and understanding of the subject and sets aims for tasks and/or activities. A phase which may be revisited if particular teacher support during a lesson is required.
A clearly defined structure for learning which has been set up by a teacher and which has a specified objective which is known to the learner.
A relatively open ended structure for learning, often involving use of a resource or medium which has been provided by the teacher for general experiential purposes and within which learners can often introduce their own objectives.
An opportunity to consider the processes and outcomes which have resulted from engagement in tasks and activities. In particular, pupils and students can articulate and hear about developments in knowledge, understanding and skill, thus leading to consolidation. The teacher can gather evidence to help them assess learners’ progress which can be used in future lessons.
An explanation for under-achievement which is often offered by governments and which primarily locates the problem with teachers and parents, but less with governments.
Thinking about thinking – the process of considering and regulating one's own learning. People are said to learn more effectively when they have the opportunity to reflect upon and monitor their own learning, conceptualising what has been learned from this and acting upon it.
Demonstrating to the learner how to do a task, with the expectation that the learner can copy the model. Modelling often involves thinking aloud or talking about how to work through a task.
A concept associated with Howard Gardner and Harvard Project Zero. Gardner (1983) initially identified seven different kinds of 'intelligence':
the following two have since been added (Gardner, 2000):
National Year of Reading.
Objectives refer to the specific intended educational outcomes of a particular lesson and are pre-specified. Behavioural Objective(s) identify observable pupil behaviour, that is, not what pupils will ‘understand’ but how they will show their understanding. They are sometimes known as Specific or Instructional objectives. Expressive Objectives (more properly referred to as expressive outcomes – Eisner, 1979) refer to an approach which describes an educational situation which the teacher creates, and from which learning can emerge. Skills and concepts learned earlier can be used in such a situation to produce expressive, imaginative and personalised work as a result of the stimuli provided. Learning arising from such a teaching situation is neither pre-specified nor prescribed. See Aims.
A question that has many avenues of access and allows pupils to respond in a variety of ways. Such questions have more than one correct answer.
A performance task in which pupils are required to generate a solution or response to a problem when there is no single correct answer.
This is a method for teaching reading and writing by developing learners’ ability to hear, identify, and use phonemes so that they learn the correspondence between these sounds and the symbols (graphemes) that represent them. The aim of phonics is to enable beginning readers to decode new written words by, in the first instance, sounding them out aloud. See synthetic phonics.
Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896, his best-known works were published in the 1920s and include The Language and Thought of the Child (1926). The Psychology of Intelligence was first published in English in 1950. He came to the notice of many teachers in the UK when his theory of children's development was incorporated into the Plowden Report of 1967. This theory is summed up by four stages: The sensorimotor; pre-operational thought; concrete operations and formal operations. For Piaget, as with Vygotsky, play was seen as a vital part of children's intellectual development; though interacting with the worlds in an imaginative way, children are said to construct their understanding. See constructivism and section on influential educationalists.
Project/Problem- Based Learning.
Personal Education Plan. PEPs are schemes developed for young individuals in public care, designed to support their education.
The time, usually at the end of a lesson, when the whole class is gathered together giving an opportunity for the teacher to find out what pupils have learned.
The total of an individual's knowledge at any given time.
A method of learning through which pupils reflect upon and evaluate their thinking while solving problems. The process usually includes discussion, working out strategies to solve similar problems and highlighting additional problems associated with their investigation.
Procedural knowledge refers to knowing how rather than knowing what (see Declarative Knowledge); the knowledge and skill involved in proceeding, doing, performing, or operating.
This is a very general term which is usually associated with allowing considerable amounts of child activity and choice with the teacher in the role of facilitator. Associated with ‘child-centred education’ and ‘discovery methods’ it was thought to have been prevalent in primary school classrooms following the Plowden Report of 1967. However, HMI inspections and research studies found little evidence, though it was, and is, important in teachers’ professional commitment to pupils and the quality of their experiences in school. See also Critical Pedagogy.
Psychological issues and concepts
The verbal expression of thought and feeling for communication. A medium which plays a central role in the development of cognition and social interaction from birth.
A body of shared meanings and language use constructed through conversations, texts and other forms of communication. The concept is associated with the work of Foucault who emphasised the ways that language-use, within a particular social group, brings about shared assumptions and is in turn created by shared assumptions
Engagement with people, materials, events and the environment which is formative in shaping the perception and responses of learners.
The disposition of learners to learn, often variable in respect of particular topics.
Learned helplessness is a maladaptive motivational style and prevents pupils from making the most of whatever talents they possess. It arises when pupils attribute a lack of success to a lack of ability and see the lack of ability as being beyond personal control. When work becomes difficult the learned helpless pupil abandons rather than increase their efforts (See Galloway et al. in Further Readings)
An activity, particularly common among young children, in which ideas, roles, behaviour and the imagination can be explored with minimal risk.
A constraint on behaviour, imposed by self or others, which is essential in a school environment because it enables teachers and pupils to concentrate on learning.
A form of grouping which is based on including the whole range of abilities and which is essentially mixed.
This is a Brunerian concept which pertains to the structure or scaffold which adults give to children within which they can form new concepts. It is an instructional technique in which the teacher breaks a complex task into smaller tasks, models the desired learning strategy or task, provides support as pupils learn to do the task, and then gradually shifts responsibility to the pupils. In this manner, a teacher enables pupils to accomplish as much of a task as possible without adult assistance. See under Teaching strategies.
A framework of existing thinking and interconnected concepts held by a learner, into which successive learning may be assimilated.
Knowledge that provides people with the conceptual and technological tools to explain and describe how the world works.
Self-directed learning - refers to learners making decisions about what training and development experiences will occur, and how. Learners select and carry out their own learning goals, objectives, methods and approaches to assessment. See also Autodidactic learning.
A person’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations. This is distinct from Self-esteem.
The value or opinion which an individual ascribes to himself or herself, thus powerfully influencing self-confidence in tackling new learning challenges.
The process of taking control of and evaluating one's own learning and behaviour, informed by metacognition. See SRL below.
Putting pupils into different groups for a particular subject according to their apparent ability in that subject. See ability grouping.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timed.
Self-regulated learning emphasises autonomy and control by the learner. Self-regulated learners are aware of their abilities, and they have a range of strategies that they can apply in an appropriate way to deal with academic tasks. Such learners attribute their successes or failures to factors within their control.
A psychological approach which locates many constructivist ideas within a social context to emphasise the influence of culture and interaction on learning. The most influential social constructivist was Vygotsky who, in particular, conceived of the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) and emphasised the role of a more knowledgeable other (teacher, parent or child) in scaffolding a learner’s understanding.
This approach builds on social constructivism in emphasising the importance of the social context in a person's learning and development. However it goes one step further as it recognises that social contexts are also cultural contexts that is to say they can be characterised by shared meanings and values, though these may often be taken for granted rather than explicit. (See also Culture)
Specialist subject teacher
A teacher who specialises in the teaching of a limited number of National Curriculum subjects and teaches them to several classes across the school. The specialist teacher is the norm in secondary schools and is becoming more common in work with older children in the primary phase, where the balance of advantage is seen to lie with specialism and knowing the subject to be studied very well. See Generalist class teacher. A semi-specialist teacher is a hybrid of generalist and specialist in which the roles are enacted selectively for particular purposes. For instance, four teachers in a junior school may teach English, maths and some topics which integrate history, geography, technology and art as a generalist to their own class. However, music, science, physical education and information & communication technology may be taught by these same four teachers, working in each others’ classrooms so that each can share a particular expertise which he or she has.
Systematic Synthetic Phonics. See Synthetic phonics. Also Safer School Partnership.
This approach has been influenced by Vygotsky's theories and emphasises the role of the teacher as a guide supporting and controlling a child's learning, guiding a child through their zone of proximal development (see ZPD, in 'Psychological issues and concepts'). It contrasts with the approach described above as 'progressive' which suggests a more minimal role for the teacher. According to this Vygotskian based approach the teacher is on hand to give help when needed and withdraws help when the child can manage a task alone, (see 'scaffolding', in 'Teaching strategies'). Applications of this approach use phrases such as 'guided participation' and 'assisted learning' to emphasise this particular learning/teaching relationship.
See Phonics. The ‘synthetic’ part of the term refers to the part played by synthesising (blending) in reading. Children are taught to look at the letters of words from left to right, convert them into sounds and blend (synthesise) the sounds in order to work out the spoken forms of the words. For example, if children see the word dog, they need to know what sound to say for each grapheme (d - o - g) and then to be able to blend those sounds together into a recognisable word.
Teaching for understanding
A teaching method that focuses on the process of understanding as the goal of learning, rather than simply on the development of specific skills. It focuses on forming connections and seeing relationships among facts, procedures, concepts, and principles, and between prior and new knowledge.
The approach adopted (consciously or unconsciously) by a teacher when teaching. There are usually said to be four different teaching styles:
The expert or formal authority style - this is characterised by being teacher-centred and information is presented to and received by learners.
The demonstrator style is a teacher-centred approach that emphasises modelling and demonstration. This approach encourages learners to observe processes as well as content.
The facilitator is a learner-centred model for the classroom. Teachers design activities or create situations that allow pupils to engage in heuristic learning.
The delegator places much of the onus of learning on the pupils. Teachers adopting this approach often give tasks that require some degree of pupil initiative to complete successfully.
The perception, values and social practices of teachers, for instance developing in the staffroom, which can affect work commitment, classroom practice and school ethos.
The beliefs which a teacher holds about the possible performance of his or her pupils. Pupil attainment is thought to be influenced by these.
The range of approaches that may be adopted by a teacher:
Imparting knowledge, skill or understanding to enhance the development of a learner.
Watching a learner carefully to inform a judgement of their responses to a learning challenge.
Providing clarification in response to a learner’s need.
Engaging with a learner in focused conversation on a learning topic with a view to enhancing their knowledge, skill, understanding or motivation.
Asking a learner questions to diagnose his or her existing level of knowledge, skill or understanding, or to gauge his or her attitude and motivation towards a learning challenge.
Holding a particular conversation with an individual pupil for the purpose of reviewing his or her learning progress and to plan future targets.
Providing appropriate support, often though instruction or explanation, which enables a child to construct understanding for themselves. Often thought of in association with Vygotsky’s concept of the ‘zone of proximal development’.
Ensuring that learning tasks are set at suitable levels of challenge in respect of pupils existing knowledge, skills and understanding.
Taking stock of teaching and learning, evaluating evidence and analysing strengths and weaknesses in classroom provision and teaching practices.
A very general term which is usually associated with rather didactic methods in which a teacher controls the curriculum and pupil behaviour very tightly and adopts the role of instructor. See Didactic teaching.
The notion that learning in one subject area can be transferred to another (e.g. musical to mathematical ability).
These might include such things as the ability to work as part of a team or solve problems. 'Transferable' might well be a quality of the learner, rather than the skill.
The extent to which potential is unfulfilled, and said to be a major problem in the UK. However, it is a complex problem and, among other things, requires attention to structural issues concerning the culture, values and socio-economic conditions in some communities and to the resources available to some schools.
Visual, auditory, kinaesthetic - see learning styles.
Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic. A commercially orientated copyrighted set of materials relating to learning styles.
Classes formed (usually in primary schools) from children of different age-groups.
Virtual Learning Environment – usually refers to online, web-based instructional materials.
Lev Vygotsky was born in Russia in 1896 and produced seminal works such as Thought and Language (1932). See section on influential educationalists.
What Are We Learning Today (refers to learning objectives) - see WILF.
Wider Benefits of Learning.
Whole class work
A form of classroom organisation in which a whole class is taught together or works on similar tasks or activities together.
What I am Looking For (refers to learning outcomes).
Zone of proximal development: A level or range in which a pupil can perform a task with help. It refers to the difference between the level of solved tasks that can be performed with guidance from a teacher (or other adult) and the level of independently solved tasks; it is the place where the learner and the teacher meet. Vygotsky emphasised the importance of play. When playing, children use their imagination and often take on imaginary roles where they are acting out behaviour which is beyond their age. They do this in a way which is more focused than when given a task to do by an adult. One lesson for teachers here is that learning is best facilitated through creating a situation where people can learn at their own pace, doing things which are relevant to them.