Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
open plan

an approach to organisation associated with progressive education whereby individual classrooms are replaced by larger more flexible teaching areas allowing for different groupings of learners and different roles for staff. Perceived benefits are countered by those who point for the need for much more extensive planning to co-ordinate activities and avoid situations where a music lesson for example occurs at the same time as an activity requiring silence. It is also a term used for office space where staff are accommodated in larger communal areas as opposed to having individual offices. Unless staff are expected to be working in teams at all times the advantages of this approach are not clear except in terms of efficiency of space and managerial surveillance.

open question

 a question that is phrased so that more extended responses are required than a single word answer (see closed question divergent open-ended).


of a question not inviting a single correct answer divergent. Of a contract not having a set time limit ( see divergent  open question).

operant conditioning

a term in behaviourism for the process of shaping behaviour by the systematicreinforcement (rewarding) of particular responses.


a term from the work of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) referring to a mental process by which a learner can combine separate and transform information in a logical way. In the earlier stages of learning Piaget uses the term preoperational to refer to the way in which such a learner is confused by appearance struggles to decentre their thinking and muddles issues about causation and consequences owing to a nonlogical approach.

opportunity costs

the cost of a decision made incurred to an organisation or programme through foregoing alternative choices.

opting out

verbal noun: the process by which a school withdraws from local authority control to become independent or self-governing.


curriculum choices for students where subjects are not compulsory or where a choice of topics or modules is offered within one subject area.


a term for the ability to speak or skill in speaking. It became prominent as an attempt to stress its basic importance alongside literacy and numeracy.


spoken. Some assessments take this form: for example the viva voce for higher degrees such as PhD. It is not be confused with aural which refers to hearing and with related forms of assessment particularly in foreign language teaching.

outdoor education

planned educational experiences which take place beyond an institutional setting often involving resources and activities suited to setting such as sports crafts and camping and so sometimes involving residential arrangements.


to practise skills beyond the point where proficiency has been reached; to repeat, or seek to memorise, material even after it can be fully recalled. Overlearning is reputed to be valuable to aid recall over time. It is said to be helpful in language learning and as a strategy for some with certain learning difficulties

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