the self-contained grounds and buildings of an educational institution. A single institution, thus, could have several campuses.


the conventionally-recognised standard works in a particular area of knowledge. It is a controversial area as what is deemed to comprise the canon can depend on cultural, social, and subjective bias. The term is also used for those works of a particular author which are recognised as genuine.


like aptitude, this refers to an individual's perceived potential in some area of academic, social, or physical activity. Because its application is necessarily based on a judgement, there are numerous dangers of bias and error.


the power to learn, improve, or achieve in some relevant area or sphere of human activity. Again, an individual's perceived capacity is based on a judgement and so susceptible to all related problems ( see aptitude, capability, potential).


belief in, or the fact of, an economic system based on private ownership, profit, wage labour, and free enterprise


the payment of money to an educational institution, the amount determined by the number of its pupils, students, or other relevant category of person. It is often called per capita funding.

care ethics

approaches to moral thinking which stress the importance of solidarity, community, and caring about those close to us as opposed to absolute universal standards. Originally, it was seen as a feminist alternative to what was viewed as male-dominated bias around issues of justice in morality. It has, however, also been criticised by some feminists who view it as perpetuating the image of the 'softer' female stereotype.


a teaching approach which has a number of different activities or 'stations' which individuals or groups visit and work on in sequence.


in teaching, an approach where learning involves information or ideas being successively passed on and shared by learners. In broader educational settings, it refers to any system of communication where information is passed from one level to the next. For example, it is often associated with top-down approaches to curriculum development initiatives or policy-making.

category mistake

a term introduced by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) which refers to an error arising from referring to an object in terms appropriate only to something of a radically different kind. The error is to place something in a category to which it doesn't belong. Ryle held that Descartes' distinction between mind and body was just such a mistake, looking for some entity separate from the body called a 'mind'.

central institutions

a term used in 20th century Scotland for a number of higher education colleges, rather similar to polytechnics, centrally funded by government, offering degree-level courses, usually in technical subjects. Many have since become universities in their own right, or merged with existing universities. Those remaining are now known as centrally-funded colleges.


in any educational setting, the concentration of control under a single authority. It could refer to a system where educational control is exercised predominantly, or exclusively, at national, as opposed to local, government levels. It could also feature in an institution where there is little devolved decision-making and power rests in a single figure or a small management group.


an approach to teaching where a relevant skill or practice is broken down into constituent parts, each of which is then taught individually but linked to form a sequence. This lock-step approach is often influenced by behaviourist theories of learning.

charity school

a type of school in UK - predominantly English - history, set up by an individual or private body to provide basic education for the poor. They originated in the 18th century, many early ones established under the auspices of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In Scotland the equivalent was the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge which ran around 200 schools until they were brought into the state sector in 1872.

child abuse

the physical, emotional, or sexual maltreatment of a young person.

child development

the biological and psychological process of growth of a child from infancy to adolescence, including social, cognitive, and emotional development. It is the focus of countless rival theories, adherence to which affects considerably the educational provision deemed appropriate for the child.

child guidance

the treatment of, or service designed for, children deemed to have cognitive, emotional or behavioural problems. It now tends to be subsumed under the general title of the educational psychology service.

child protection

this refers to the safety and welfare of children and their protection from abuses of various sorts - physical, emotional, sexual. It is a matter covered by legislation and local authority guidelines: schools normally liaise with social services professionals in dealing with such matters. Concerns about the risks to children have led to measures to vet positively anyone who works with children.


parental choice has been emphasised by politicians in recent decades. It is particularly stressed in the area of school choice: selecting to send offspring to private school, faith school, or to make placing requests to choose state school. It is not uncontroversial as it is thought to favour articulate, informed middle-class parents unduly, and to skew badly school composition in certain areas. The place of choice in affecting learner engagement and motivation has also been recognised to some extent with schools and curricula endeavouring to create options as far as they deem it possible (see agency).


a common means for promoting government policy without recourse to legislation. A circular issued to education authorities or to schools does not have the force of law but can be very powerful in terms of elucidating policy and/or recommending action or practice.


the rights, responsibilities, functions, privileges and duties of being a member of society. Concern in recent years at a perceived decline in its proper exercise has led to political expectations of schools to 'teach' citizenship and promote related characteristics and behaviours in their pupils. It is subject to a number of contested debates such as the extent to which a child is a citizen or merely a citizen 'in the making', about the balance between citizenship rights and citizenship responsibilities, and about teaching citizenship as a subject discipline or as a practice.

civil service

the collective term for all employees of government departments.

civil society

a term used to distinguish areas of social life covering the family, the economy, culture, and political interaction which are organised by and between individuals and groups outside direct state control. It is thought to be a useful term to identify important areas of life which cannot just be understood as subordinated to the workings of the state or the economy.


a system for the categorisation of people according to their perceived social or economic status. Terms include upper class, ruling class, middle class, working class (see social class).

class contact

a teacher's direct, formal involvement with a group of pupils. It is a term most used in calculating a teacher's contractual hours of employment, as most contracts will stipulate a maximum amount of time in this area.

classical conditioning

a term from behaviourism for the process by which two stimuli are presented together until the reflex response to one stimulus occurs when the other is presented alone, thereby creating a conditioned or learned response. The most common example is that of Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) whose dog learned to salivate at the sound of a bell, it having previously been sounded simultaneously with the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus of food (see conditioning; operant conditioning; reinforcement).

closed question

usually used in the context of a teacher's oral interaction with learners where a single, 'right' answer is expected. It is viewed as being of little value and restrictive, especially when questioning is considered as an aid to learning rather than a test of learning. Even to test learning, however, a closed question lends itself to rote learning and is unlikely to probe understanding ( see open question; higher order thinking ).

cloze procedure

a reading comprehension exercise requiring the participant to supply appropriate words to fit gaps that have been created in a text.


a modern term for a programme of extra-curricular activities which may be optional or compulsory.


a term, borrowed from business management and personal development theory and itself imported from sport, which has gained educational currency in recent years. It refers to the training of an individual or group, in a supportive but expert manner, to improve performance or ability. Its attraction is probably because it can fit both constructivist and behaviourist approaches to learning: on the one hand, it stresses the individual's active role in responding to the coach's input; on the other hand it is susceptible to a process of conditioned responses where the coach systematically promotes improvement through a series of sequenced actions each supported by relevant reinforcement.

cognitive development

the (natural) growth of human intelligence or mental ability. A key figure in its study is Jean Piaget (1896-1980) who was interested in the change in a person's ability to learn from childhood to adulthood. He developed a theory to account for this process whereby a human acquires intelligence, capacity for increasingly complex thinking, and problem-solving ability, from infancy to adulthood (see abstract, accommodation, assimilation, concrete operational, equilibration, formal operational, preoperational, schema, sensori-motor).

cognitive dissonance

psychological tension created by holding contradictory thoughts, beliefs or attitudes particularly relating to a decision which has to be made, or in relation to current behaviour or practice.


working together, jointly, as opposed to individually or competitively.

collaborative learning

an approach where learners work on a task together, dependent on and accountable to each other. Each learner contributes to, and benefits from others' involvement in, the activity. It can be seen as aligned most obviously to social constructivist theory. While related to cooperative learning, it is distinguished by the fact there is a common task and a single group result. Cooperative learning can involve separate tasks and individual outcomes although the process may be marked by shared activity and mutual support.


the management of an organisation or activity in such a way as to maximise financial profits or the (re)structuring of an organisation or activity in such a way as to render it capable of generating profits.


in education, the attempt to turn social practices such as teaching and learning into products or goods, or the treatment of them as such. Instead of teaching being seen as involving dynamic and creative activity within a social setting, it becomes an inert object capable of being 'delivered'.

common curriculum

in an education system or institution, the educational programme which all involved would be expected to follow. It is necessarily controversial since decisions on what is deemed suitable for all require choices to be made about what is judged appropriate or not, and such choices will clearly reflect different social, political, and cultural values. Also, while ostensibly offering equality - a common curriculum for all - it may entrench inequality since the particular views of any dominant social group are likely to shape and inform the curriculum design.

common sense

sound, practical judgement which is not based on specialised knowledge or training. While given status in ordinary language, what constitutes 'common sense' for any one social group or culture may actually involve prejudice, superstition or ignorance. Appeals to 'common sense' as the ultimate arbiter in any dispute, therefore, need to be treated cautiously.


a political theory which favours the collective ownership of all property by the community, each individual contributing and receiving according to ability and need (see marxism).


a grouping of views which can be said to have the common thread of viewing the individual as beholden to the community. One example is in the view that an individual's moral beliefs will be largely a matter of cultural inheritance. One political version is that the individual is subordinate to the collective authority of the community. Another theoretical version holds to a system of social organization based on small self-governing communities.

communities of practice

communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour. The focus is on the processes of social learning that occur when groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. While it can, and does, refer to all human environments, in education it is particularly used with regard to professional cooperation in various situations. The concept has been developed most prominently by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (see also situated learning).


a complex term referring to any social group which shares one or more characteristics such as locality, culture, history, religion, occupation, interests, and which is perceived, or perceives itself, as distinct within wider society. State schools traditionally serve a local community - the catchment area - which may have within it many diverse social groups of its own.

community education

a form of educational provision, or educational activities, encouraging a wide involvement of people from all ages and often in sites beyond conventional schools or colleges - education in the community. There is a focus on education as a lifelong and continuing process. It is often conducted in tandem or though the medium of youth or other voluntary groups.

community school

an educational institution serving a local community. It is most commonly marked by being open to a broader public range of activities and usage than simply that for school pupils or students.


an approach, particularly common in the USA, which seeks to tailor the curriculum more closely to specific students by identifying the learner’s prior competence and so determining which parts of a planned programme may be skipped and alternative, more appropriate, activities provided. As can be seen, it is most often designed for high-achieving learners in the specific curriculum area (see also differentiation)


the ability to do something successfully or efficiently in terms of the set criteria (see below).


a contest where there is usually a winner and loser(s). This is commonly manifested in education in arrangements aimed at an outcome where those with most ability and skill will succeed. It most often refers to sporting or academic attainment. While it may motivate some learners, competition risks alienating losers, especially when success is often linked to extraneous factors, beyond the power of participants to change, such as privilege and social status.

composite class

a class where pupils of different ages and at different stages are accommodated or taught together in the one teaching area. It is common in small, especially rural, schools.

comprehensive schooling

a system of schooling in which children of all abilities from a particular area attend the one school. The ideal of thus creating a genuine social mix in terms of school population has been compromised in the UK by the lack of mixed housing in most urban areas, a phenomenon which tends to make urban schools imbalanced in terms of social class, race, and ethnic identity.


an adjective which refers to mental activity involving desire, purpose, or will.

concept maps

in education, a type of diagram created to show various relationships between key ideas, usually in some subject area.

conceptual analysis

an approach to philosophical inquiry which examines the meaning of key terms and ideas. It is sometimes seen as a rather arid exercise when there grows a gap between this sort of analysis and actual language in use.

concrete operational

one of the stages in the genetic epistemology of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) where logic begins to emerge and children can use basic systematic reasoning to solve problems (see formal operational; preoperational; sensori-motor).


describing a fact, situation, or practice which depends for its existence or occurrence on another thing or event; not necessary; qualified by reservations


the act of training someone to behave in a certain way or to become accustomed to certain circumstances. It is associated with behaviourism and is widely regarded with suspicion because of its manipulative associations and the lack of attention paid to the active, conscious choices and autonomy of the learner (see classical conditioning; operant conditioning; reinforcement).

conductive education

an approach designed to enable learners with motor disorders to become more independent of artificial aids and participate actively in society.

conflict of interest

any situation where a decision made by someone in an official role may be, or come to be, to the benefit of the decision-maker. Normal procedure would be for these to be declared in advance and/or for the person involved to withdraw from the process

congruent teaching

an approach, most common in teacher education courses, where what is being taught is mirrored by how it is taught. For example, teaching students about groupwork is done through the medium of groupwork; another example would be teaching about cooperative learning through having the students cooperate together. The term is sometimes used in the general sense of the expectation that teacher educators should model good practice for their student teachers.

consensus theory

the view that social cohesion is essentially founded on a body of values which are in line with the views of all or most members of a particular society. This can be seen as supportive of, or in line with, a relativist moral position where morality is flexible, dependent on social context and social change. It is associated with the views of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).


a term used for theories of morality which see good, bad, right, and wrong as determined by the consequences or outcomes of one's action. Utilitarianism is an example of a consequentialist theory. It contrasts principally with deontological theories which view moral worth as independent of consequence and more related to such issues as will, intention, duty.


an outlook which is resistant to, or cautious about, change and supportive of traditional values.


most commonly used in education for the arrangement whereby a number of institutions form an association for mutual benefit, especially in terms of offering a wider choice of curricular subjects than each could do alone.


a theory which regards learning as an active process where the learner constructs and internalises new concepts, ideas, and knowledge based on their present and past experiences. Learning is not a received object, but a created process. Two main forms of the theory are cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. More generally in the social sciences, it can also refers to a range of approaches which view elements thought to have objective reality as instead being social or cultural 'constructs'.


the view that ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy; amaterialistic outlook which values the acquisition of goods and possessions.

continuing professional development (CPD)

in education, the ongoing process whereby teachers and others upgrade and develop their professional knowledge and skills. Nowadays, it tends to refer to an organised system as opposed to being a voluntary or optional extra. Thus, while it may address issues of lifelong learning and personal development, it is also motivated by a political concern for accountability in the public sector generally, and specifically designed to counter the historical phenomenon that teachers, once qualified, had no requirement or incentive to 'improve' or keep up-to-date.

continuous assessment

an ongoing process of identifying the knowledge, skills, or attitudes of a learner as opposed to one based on specific, discrete testing. It is often thought to be a fairer system for those who tend to perform abnormally in tests and it may also be more reliable as it depends on a body of evidence rather than data from a single test. It can be problematic however as it can lack robustness and its reliability can also be affected by subjective teacher impressions.


an approach to social and moral theory which understands the state and the rule of law in terms of a reputed agreement between the individual and society, by which certain potential individual freedoms are sacrificed for the mutual benefits which flow from such a 'contract'. It features in the work of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and informs the work of more modern theorists such as John Rawls. Its influence can be seen in approaches to behaviour management such as school students being involved in drawing up their own school and classroom rules, and more overtly in disciplinary approaches which involve individuals signing contracts regarding their future behaviour.

control group

in a research study, the group with similar characteristics to the experimental group which is the subject of the intervention or experiment. The control group is used for comparative purposes ( see matching; randomised control trial).

cooperative learning

an approach which stresses learners helping each other or working together, perhaps in organised groups. It is aligned to social constructivist theories of learning. It is often used synonymously with collaborative learning but it can be distinguished in that cooperative learning may involve learners working on different tasks, but in a mutually supportive atmosphere.

cooperative teaching

an approach where teachers teach together. It can be structured in a number of different ways but is distinguished from team teaching in that it usually involves one teacher in a leading role and another, or others, in a supportive role. It is thought to be useful for learners with particular needs and for teacher development through sharing practice. Its effective use is highly dependent on time for joint planning.


the main, essential part of a curriculum or activity. It may often be mandatory with other elements then optional. Core + extension is a common, if limited, version of differentiation where only learners who have completed the core activity move on to other tasks. This approach needs to be planned and managed carefully to avoid problems. For example, if extension tasks are serious, learners may view it as punishment for success in the core, whereas if they are more fun, or involve pupil choice, learners who struggle with the core may see themselves as being punished by missing out. Similarly, for workload reasons, extension activities are often unmarked, leaving learners to question the value or point of what they have done.

core knowledge

devised by an American educator, E.D. Hirsch, it is a set of cultural facts and information said to form a shared intellectual landcape for learners (in a particular society) and aims to be the core for the school curriculum. Supporters see it as empowering for disadvantaged groups who may not otherwise have access to this sort of knowledge. Critics see it as simplistic (a list of facts with right/wrong answers), potentially narrowing to the curriculum, essentially conservative, and its composition deeply problematic as the selection of what is included tends to favour dominant groups in society and is unlikely to reflect modern multicultural perspectives.


in education, a statistical term for the degree to which two or more entities show a tendency to vary together. The relationship may be a positive one ( as one rises/falls so does the other ) or a negative one ( as one rises, the other falls, and vice versa). For example, there may be a negative correlation found between levels of social deprivation and examination success and a positive correlation between levels of truancy and daytime juvenile crime. It is important to note that correlation does not necessarily establish a causal relationship: although x and y may vary together, one cannot therefore claim that x causes y or that y causes x. A common example given is the positive correlation of ice cream sales and the incidence of accidental deaths by drowning. One does not cause the other: instead, the key variable is sunny weather which affects both.

correspondence theory

a philosophical theory which holds that the truth of a statement consists in it corresponding with the facts. Truth or falsity is determined by how accurately a statement describes or relates to the world. It is criticised on a number of counts, most commonly for its simplistic view of what constitutes 'facts' or 'the world', failing to deal with the contested nature of reality.


an area of professional education dealing with resolving conflict and emotional problems.


something that seems wrong, judging by instincts, gut feelings, or normal ways of thinking.


a set of a learner's assessable material produced during a programme of study. Sometimes it is subjected to continuous assessment but more often to summative grading. It is valued as being more representative of a learner's ability than a summative test would be, but is often criticised on grounds of validity and reliability as it is not always possible to be certain that the work is solely the student's nor that the assessment, if internal, is not subjective.


a pejorative term for the intensive preparation for an examination over a short period of time, often involving mere memorisation of material. Schools or colleges in England who specialised in this approach, usually for entrance exams to universities, military colleges, or branches of the civil service, were known as cramming colleges, or crammers.


in education, a phenomenon involving the removal of those perceived to be the best pupils or students either from the state sector into the private sector, or within the state system from one school to another. It is criticised for affecting the balance of school composition and for its effects, positive or negative, on a school's efforts to meet performance targets.


a belief that all things were created by a supreme being, God, in line with the account given in the Bible. It is usually opposed to the theory of evolution. A version of creationism - Intelligent Design - has been promoted as a scientific theory as opposed to a religious belief. It is controversial as schools and authorities disagree over its inclusion in the curriculum.


the ability to be original and imaginative, especially in an artistic domain. It has had a varied history within state education as its very novelty often clashes with the demands of a monolithic system. It has lately been elevated again, partly because of a prevailing view that it is can be linked to entrepreneurialism and economic advantage.


an overemphasis on certificated educational success as a measure of personal value or worth. It is used pejoratively of employers or others who select, promote, and reward staff on the basis of their exam results, diplomas, degrees rather than on other (performative) criteria.

crisis management

in education, the administration of serious problems and difficulties - usually having arisen suddenly - which face an institution. The term is also used pejoratively of an institution where there is a lack of organisational stability or systems to cope with its situation, resulting in every eventuality being dealt with in emergency fashion.

critical consciousness

a term from the work of Paulo Freire (1921-1997) which refers to the ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against it.

critical friend

a trusted person who provides a type of formative peer assessment critiquing the work and performance of a person or an organisation in a candid but supportive way. In education, it is often used in an intermediary, informal role, to prepare a person, group, or institution for a more formal system of assessment such as an inspection.

critical incident

an approach to (self) management where the details of a significant moment are analysed to help improve future performance. The technique may be used in behaviour management or personnel management, for example, where staff, individually or as a group, examine a described incident in a way to identify lessons to aid future action.

critical pedagogy

a teaching approach which attempts to help students achieve critical consciousness. It is explicitly aimed at aiding individuals to emancipate themselves, to strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. It is a term derived from the work of Paulo Freire (1921-1997).

critical realism

a philosophical view, in modern times associated with Roy Bhaskar (b.1944), which asserts that our knowledge of the world refers to the-way-things-really-are, but in an incomplete, provisional sense which will necessarily be revised as that knowledge develops. It therefore avoids the extreme postmodernist position that any interpretation of reality is as good as any other, avoids the idealist view that there is no external reality, but also avoids the naïve realist or positivist view that there is one single knowable truth 'out there'.

critical theory

a social theory which aims not simply to understand or explain society but to critique and change it, with an emancipatory objective. It is associated with the Frankfurt school of social philosophers and the work of Jürgen Habermas (b.1929).

cross reference

a reference from one text or part of a text to another, or to a file, catalogue, etc. containing relating information.


descriptive of any arrangement, group, or activity which involves more than one curriculum subject or area. It is often viewed in a positive light as it addresses the danger of compartmentalisation caused by a rigid curriculum structure, especially in secondary schools (see integrated education).

cultural capital

a term from the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). In embodied form it is the dispositions,knowledge, skills, attitudes a person has which give them social advantage. For example, children from a middle class background tend to have the cultural capital that makes the educational system a more comfortable and familiar environment for them to succeed in more easily. In objectified form it refers to such things as books, and in institutionalised form it is most readily identified in the form of academic qualifications. Elsewhere Bourdieu refers to it as 'informational capital'.


in educational contexts, this term usually refers to the whole way of life - behaviours and beliefs - of a particular group, perhaps distinguished by race, class, age, nationality, ethnicity, orientation, etc. or a combination of these. Examples might be Gaelic culture, youth culture, working class culture, or black English teenage urban culture.


loosely, a course of study in a school or college. More properly, it is defined as the overall rationale for, or essential principles and features of, an educational programme. An influential theorist, Ralph W. Tyler (1902-1994), outlined four key elements in curriculum: aims, objectives or purposes; content; methods or procedures; assessment. Curriculum is often used wrongly as synonymous with syllabus, which is in fact the term for curriculum content ( see also related terms such as formal curriculum, hidden curriculum, total curriculum).


in education, this most often refers to the process by which teaching materials and programmes are adapted to suit the needs of a particular learner or group of learners.

cyber pedagogy

the science or art of teaching within an online environment. It focuses on the rationale and methods of teaching most suited to the specific technology in use, as opposed to what may be more appropriate for traditional face-to-face classroom contexts.