Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
a posteriori

referring to a statement which requires empirical evidence to be verified or falsified (see a priori analytic synthetic).

a priori

a term originating from the work of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) referring to any knowledge which is known to be true independently of experience. It contrasts with a posteriori which refers to knowledge confirmed by observation. Kant attempted to distinguish analytic a priori statements - true by reason of definition - from the synthetic a priori which are necessarily true statements but which are informative about experience such as statements in mathematics or the statement 'every event must have a cause'.  Synthetic a priori statements are said to be never false in any logically possible world.


a person's current level of capacity in terms of certain physical or mental tasks. Learners are often grouped for teaching purposes by having their perceived ability levels taken into account.


used to describe a learner based on perception of a pattern of quick and/or successful learning behaviour. It is often used loosely in a global sense although ability may only be apparent in one specific aspect or area of learning.


a moral theory which holds that there are certain moral rules which must always apply regardless of circumstance. It is thus opposed to situationism and a number of other moral theories.


as an adjective it means theoretical not concrete related to ideas rather than physical objects. Young children struggle to understand abstract ideas and usually need some concrete example to help them make sense.


relating to scholarly activities especially those involving study within subject areas ordisciplines.


a term for a secondary school most common in the independent sector. With'the' definite article it is also a term for the higher education community generally. In England since 2000 a city academy is a secondary school centrally funded but with sponsorship from business faith or  voluntary groups the aim being to improve standards in areas of disadvantage. The Academy was originally the name given to the school of Plato (427-347 BCE).

accelerated learning

any approach which aims to increase learning capacity and so achieve desired outcomes speedily. It is a highly commercialized field within the business sector but claims to effectiveness are challenged.

access course

a qualifying programme of study normally undertaken by learners who wish to commence a more advanced course but who do not yet have the required certification for that course. It is often aimed at adults returning to formal education.


a term from the work of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) referring to a response to a new experience where the learner has to adjust modify their existing conceptions to make better sense of the new and previous experiences (see assimilation  schema).


a term introduced to the public sector from business management. In education it refers to the idea that the performance (in a variety of areas) of institutions groups and individuals be judged according to measurable criteria. It is controversial partly because quite a number of educational aims are not easily quantifiable or measurable with the result that they are either only weakly covered by the accountability model or that other data more susceptible to measurement are perhaps given undue attention.


the recognition and acceptance of the standards of an educational body or its courses by some system of external evaluation.


the process of acquisition of the values and customs of the social group into which an individual enters. This may occur unconsciously in schools for example through the workings of thehidden curriculum (see socialisation).


success particularly where it represents a great personal accomplishment.  Often wrongly conflated with attainment which refers to level of achievement and often also unhelpfully narrowed to success in terms of academic assessment. Currently many educational systems are trying to broaden out the sense of achievement to take account of other areas of success in learners' lives.

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