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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 12/16/2009

How to create your own education jargon

By Valerie Strauss

Ever heard or seen the phrase “phonemic awareness” and wonder exactly what it meant? Or “Bloom’s taxonomy,” “problems-based learning,” “brain-based learning,” “outcome-based education,” “holistic learning,” “formative evaluation,” or internal evaluation?"

How about my new favorite: "Unleashing research-based curriculum integration?"

Okay, that last one is made up, but the rest are phrases now tossed around in the education world as if they actually mean something to most people.

To help you figure out the jargon, here are Web sites that explain some of these concepts: A lexicon buster from ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. And here's another helpful dictionary .

For some fun, you can go and create your own education jargon. Have some fun here. It offers lists of verbs, adjectives and nouns and lets you create your own educational nonsense that may make as much sense as the stuff actually used in education schools!

Here are a few of my creations:

*morph performance-based assessment”

*integrate classroom-based pedagogy”

And I'm planning to start a new school reform program that unleashes the research-based curriculum integration within us all.

I’d love to hear some of the jargon that you have come across in your reading or at your child's school. Write in the comments section or to me at

Follow Valerie’s blog all day, every day at

For all the Post’s Education coverage, please see

By Valerie Strauss  | December 16, 2009; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Learning  | Tags:  educational jargon  
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My son's class has a few special-education students (with their own paraeducator) mixed in with all of the other students. At the parent teacher conference, one of the special-education teachers called my son a 'typically-developing peer.' So, if you are not GT or special-ed, you are 'typically developing.' Of course the problem is that the opposite of typical is atypical, implying that the kids on each end of the spectrum are not 'normal'. Mind you, special ed these days encompasses a lot more than it used to, and many of these kids do indeed fall within the normal development range (as do the purported 'gifted' in most cases).

Posted by: 1Reader | December 16, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I think that some in education are happy to confuse parents - they don't want them to understand what's going on.
We need a dictionary of explanations for the UK too!

Posted by: sarahebner | December 17, 2009 6:31 AM | Report abuse

Our county has engaged not only in the jargon, but in nearly Orwellian alterations to the meanings of terms.

An example: Students who do not pass the high school assessments used to get help that we might have called "remediation." That is, remedies, of some kind, to help them overcome the problem of not passing the test. Some classes might even, long ago, been designated "remedial."

Now, the county prefers the name "accerlation." For most of us, acceleration should involve moving faster than usual. However, students who "are accelerated" (according to the county) are those who are moving more slowly toward the (lame, false, useless?) goal of passing the test.

Posted by: ddaudelin | December 17, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Your comments on "phrases now tossed around in the education world as if they actually mean something to most people" disregards the complexity of the education process and the need for specific terms to describe important nuances. If by the "education world" you mean serious educators who want to talk meaningfully about the differences between diagnostic, formative and summative assessments or want to use a framework for developing higher order problem-solving skills, that's a far cry from words that have meaning "for most people." If, on the other hand, you were complaining about the use of education jargon in the larger world of politics and journalism, then perhaps you've got an argument, though I would suggest that any time something as complex as education gets simplified to the lowest common denominator, little good comes of it.

Posted by: gideon4ed | December 17, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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