New Zealand teaching jargon gets glossary

The classroom is another world and the glossary for teaching jargon confirms it.

The classroom is another world and the glossary for teaching jargon confirms it.

Digital natives have emerged from the cave to gather at the watering hole where they'll ponder their cognitive wobble.


You're not the only one.

Try translating systemness, digital immigrant and scaffolding from the classroom into plain English.

It may be confusing from the outside but teaching jargon acts as shorthand, University of Waikato linguist Dr Andreea ...

It may be confusing from the outside but teaching jargon acts as shorthand, University of Waikato linguist Dr Andreea Calude​ said.

Fortunately, help is at hand - the Education Review Office (ERO) will demystify education jargon for puzzled parents and caregivers with a glossary of terms and definitions.

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"If a kid comes home and says, I spent half an hour in the cave today, a parent might wonder a little bit about what that was," senior education evaluator Barbie Mavor​ said.

They're unlikely to be referring to a hole in a rock, but are probably talking about "a quiet place where they can be on their own and study individually or reflect on their work".

"That sort of language, if it's being used commonly in school, can be rather problematic for parents not understanding what was going on," Mavor said.

Developments in technology mean education is changing fast and new jargon comes with it.

But the glossary won't make for quick reading - it exceeds 300 terms.

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They are tricky to translate, a sunny day survey of people in Hamilton's Garden Place showed.

Flipped classroom created confusion.

"Everything inside out, flipped over? I don't know," Hamilton sous-chef Antonius Shepherd said.

It could be when students teach the teachers, nursing student Toni Morrison guessed. 

According to the glossary, a flipped classroom switches the types of activities typically done in class and for homework.

Students get their instruction outside class - for example, through a video - and use class time to do activities to build on it.

The term digital immigrant also stumped a few people.

"Digital is technology but immigrant's a person," nursing student Jazmine Christian said.

Web designer Hayden McMillan was almost on the money: "Someone that's new to the technology."

Many teachers are digital immigrants, the glossary says - they have adopted technology into earlier ways of working, whereas some of their students have been using it all their lives.

Jargon excludes those who aren't in the know, a linguist says.

The term has its origins in the late 1300s, meaning the twittering or chattering of birds, University of Waikato linguistics senior lecturer Dr Andreea Calude​ said.

Dictionaries say it is often a term of contempt.

But jargon's major advantage is that it allows people to talk about a specialist area without using a lot of words to do it.

"It's shorthand for them. It's quick, it's good and everybody's on the same page," Calude said.

"Whether you like it or not, jargon is big business in our language."

In fact, it makes up the largest portion of the vocabulary of people who have studied at polytechnics or university.

The Ministry of Education said schools should use clear language when they communicate with parents, and many do this well.

The ministry has even published examples of how to write school reports in plain language, head of early learning and student achievement Lisa Rodgers said. But she still thinks the ERO glossary will be useful for parents and caregivers.

If parents don't understand the language used, they should check with their child's teacher, the principal, or senior staff members.

The full glossary is on the ERO website as a trial and feedback is welcomed.

Eventually, the ERO hopes to have an interactive online version.

A selection of teacher talk:

Blended learning: Learning that occurs when at least part of the content and instruction is delivered via digital and online media. Learning will also occur in other ways, including with the teacher in person. Students have some control over time, place, path, or pace of their learning.

Cognitive wobble: When you realise you are holding two opposing views and are struggling to make sense of them in a deep and challenging way.

Digital natives: Someone who has grown up immersed in using technology like the Internet, computers and mobile device in all aspects of life.

Gamification: Turning the learning process as a whole into a game, such as awarding scores, making learning a quest, or using progress ladders.

Scaffolding: The support given during the learning process. It is tailored to the needs of the students to help them achieve their goals. It is done by building, step by step, on previous learning.

Systemness: Within the local school context, 'systemness' means each teacher isn't just responsible for the learning of their own students, but for each and every student.

Watering hole: A place, either physical or digital, to gather for peer learning and sharing.

Source: ERO

 - Stuff


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