Glossary of Education Terms
Like all other professionals, educators use language and terms that are specific to the profession. In fact, many people inside and outside of education claim that there can be no “profession” without a special language. This glossary is provided for readers who may not be familiar with some of the words and concepts commonly used by professional educators.
As with other professions, in education, the use and meaning of certain terms is constantly evolving. Indeed, a given term in education might be defined in more than one way, in part because so many different professional communities influence education. Therefore, this glossary points out many nuances but does not necessarily provide all the definitions or usages of a given term.
The granting of approval by an official accrediting body for a college or university to conduct its programs at the undergraduate level. For preservice education, there are two primary organizations that provide such accreditation to colleges and universities: the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)1 and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)2.
Assists in drawing distinctions between knowing how to do something (procedural or skill understanding) and knowing what something means (conceptual understanding). For example, understanding 1 divided by should include both how to do the calculation (procedural understanding) and what 1 divided by means (conceptual understanding); i.e., being able to calculate a derivative of a function is different from knowing what that derivative means.
A person who has extensive training in and knowledge of a subject area and can both teach that subject to students and help other teachers become more knowledgeable about the subject. Most commonly, this term is used to describe teachers in grades K-12 who have focused their education on mastering the content of specific disciplines. In science and mathematics education, there has been an ongoing debate about whether content specialists are needed and appropriate to teach these subjects effectively in the primary and middle grades.
In a subject area—acknowledges that a teacher has studied that subject area at such a level and with enough demonstrated proficiency to be able to teach it effectively. Teachers may seek endorsements in more than one area of expertise that complements or expands understanding of their primary content area of knowledge. For example, in some states a teacher may be certified to teach in the secondary grades with an endorsement in science. In other cases, a teacher may be certified to teach science with an endorsement in physics.
Field Component of Teacher Education
The time that preservice teachers spend in schools and classrooms working with mentor teachers. The practicum is considered to be one part of a preservice teacher’s field component of teacher education. Commonly, a faculty member from the student teacher’s college or university oversees field components. Increasingly, field components of teacher
education may involve longer term, intensive, paid or unpaid internships. In some teacher education programs, field experiences also may begin well before the senior year or be scheduled during a fifth undergraduate year.
Encompasses the first years of teaching after a student completes a preservice teacher education program (commonly the first one to three years of teaching). A great deal of research points to the induction phase or period as critical in a new teacher’s decision to continue in or leave the profession.
Although used in different ways by different authors, most generally refers to the myriad ways in which scientists study nature and propose explanations for natural phenomena based on the evidence derived from their work. Inquiry also can refer to the abilities that students and teachers need to develop to be able to design and conduct scientific investigations. It also refers to the kinds of understandings they develop about the nature of science and how scientific investigation is undertaken. “Inquiry” also can refer to approaches and strategies for teaching and learning that enable learners to master scientific concepts as a result of carrying out scientific investigations.
For further information about the nature and role of inquiry in teaching and learning, see National Research Council (2000b).
The professional development programs that are offered to practicing classroom teachers. There is little agreement about what should constitute inservice education. Programs range from workshops held as part of teacher professional development days during the school year to formal courses offered by peers or at colleges and universities.
Lower Division Course
A course offered by a college or university that typically would be taken by first or second year undergraduate students.
Usually, lower division courses fulfill a college- or university-wide requirement (such as a distribution or general education requirement) for graduation.
A teacher with extensive levels of teaching experience and demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom who may provide mentoring and professional guidance to less experienced colleagues in a variety of ways. Currently, few guidelines exist for determining which teachers qualify as master or mentor teachers. Increasingly, master teachers are being called upon to work with their colleagues in colleges and universities to improve teaching practice or the content of specific courses or curricula. For example, master teachers may team-teach courses for preservice teachers or may offer a variety of professional development activities for more experienced teachers.
Teachers teaching subject areas in which they do not have endorsement and in which they have little or no formal training. Although the definition is not precise, out-of-field teaching often refers to teaching in subject areas in which the teacher did not earn a major or minor during the undergraduate years and in which he or she does not have an endorsement.
Professional Development School (see Chapter 5 for a more complete description). Also see definition below.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Shulman (1986) was the first to propose the concept of pedagogical content knowledge, stating that it “…embodies the aspects of content most germane to its teachability … pedagogical content knowledge includes for the most regularly taught topics in one’s subject area, the most useful forms of representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations—in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject
that makes it comprehensible to others…. [It] also includes an understanding of what makes the learning of specific concepts easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning.”
Thus, pedagogical content knowledge is a type of knowledge that may be unique to teaching. It is based on the ways that teachers relate what they know about what they teach (subject matter knowledge) to what they know about effective teaching (pedagogical knowledge). The synthesis and integration of these two types of knowledge characterize pedagogical content knowledge (Cochran, 1997).
Different disciplines may require a variety of approaches to teaching in order for students to learn the content of that discipline effectively. Pedagogical content knowledge implies that teachers know the content of the discipline and that they teach, organize, and represent that content in ways that address students’ needs and enhance learning.
Usually refers to the time toward the end of the preservice education experience that student teachers are able to work with teachers and engage in actual classroom teaching as well as a variety of related experiences. In some cases, practicum refers to “student teaching.” However, it also may refer to shorter periods of time when students, especially those who are beginning in teacher education, can gain experience in schools to help them decide whether they would like to continue pursuing teaching as a career.
A series of examinations administered by the Educational Testing Service that are used to assess qualifications both for admission into teacher education programs at some colleges and universities and for certification following the completion of a preservice program. Thirty-five of the 43 states that now
require an examination for new teachers use the Praxis series. Additional information about this examination is available at <http://www.teachingandlearning.org/licnsure/praxis/prxfaq.html>.
The programs at institutions of higher education (typically through schools or colleges of education) that prepare new teachers for grades K-12.
The community that is responsible for preparing, providing professional development for, and supporting teachers throughout their careers. Recent efforts to improve teacher education and professionalism have involved engaging members of the K-12, higher education, and business and industry communities.
Professional Development School
A formal collaboration between a college or university and the K-12 sector for the specific purpose of improving teacher education and school renewal.
Reflective Practice (Practitioner)
“… a mode that integrates or links thought and action with reflection. It [reflective practice] involves thinking about and critically analyzing one’s actions with the goal of improving one’s professional practice. Engaging in reflective practice requires individuals to assume the perspective of an external observer in order to identify the assumptions and feelings underlying their practice and then to speculate about how these assumptions and feelings affect practice” (Imel, 1992).
Anyone who engages in the act of teaching. Most often the term refers to teachers of grades K-12, but it also is occasionally used to refer to those who instruct in higher education.
Used to describe either preservice or inservice education but also sometimes used to describe the continuum of teacher preparation and professional development. As emphasized in
this report, teacher education is a concept that would supplant the separation of various phases of a teacher’s professional life (preservice education, induction, and inservice education or professional development). The concept of teacher education would weave these phases into a much more seamless and integrated continuum of education that helps all teachers grow and develop professionally.
Traditionally, faculty in schools and colleges of education who prepare new teachers, provide professional development for practicing teachers, and conduct research on the improvement of education and teaching. However, this report calls for a broadening of the concept of teacher educator to include all educators who are involved with teacher education. For teachers of science, mathematics, and technology, this would include faculty in the life and physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering. It also would include master teachers who work in any capacity with faculty in higher education to provide high-quality teacher education programs.
Someone who undertakes one of several different kinds of learning opportunities for prospective or practicing teachers. In some cases, practicing teachers intern formally in business, industry, or a research laboratory to learn more about the needs of the workplace and how their teaching might better prepare students for these kinds of challenges and opportunities. In some cases, teacher interns are prospective teachers who through their internships can pursue much longer and more intense teaching experiences than might be available in a practicum or other field experience. Interns are often provided with stipends—an increasingly important practice for those who are considering teaching as a career but who also have family and other obligations that require them to earn income before becoming employed as teachers.
Teacher Licensing and Certification
The granting of official recognition, usually by a state’s department of education, that an individual teacher is qualified to teach at one or more grade levels or in one or more subject areas. In some states, new teachers may receive provisional certification until they have completed additional study or have demonstrated in some way their ability to teach at a given grade level in a given subject area.
The art of teaching that involves employing content knowledge and pedagogy that is appropriate for a given subject area and for the developmental level of the students being taught, as well using one’s knowledge of students’ abilities and learning styles. Teaching practice is influenced by a host of factors such as a teacher’s own educational background and experiences, his or her knowledge and use of the research literature on teaching, and the condition of the school and community where teaching and learning are taking place.
Teaching as Telling or Teaching Is Telling
A phrase sometimes used by educators to describe an approach to teaching that is characterized by excessively formal presentation. Often this kind of teaching involves little or no solicitation of student input. Explicit connections are not made to students’ prior or related knowledge. The learning that results and is measured may emphasize memorization more than conceptual development.