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  Glossary of NSRF Terms

 

 

 



Evolving Glossary of NSRF Terms

The list of terms below represents an effort to begin to pin down some key terms that are shaping the language of current school reform efforts throughout the nation.


Adaptive Practice
Alternative Assessment
Artifacts
Clarifying Questions
Classroom Culture
Coach
Collegial Communities
Collegiality
Competencies
Connections
Constructivism
Critical Friends

Critical Friends Group
Debriefing
Dialogue
Discussion
Essential Questions
Examining Student Work
Exhibitions
Facilitation
Facilitative Leader
Facilitator

Faculty Buy-In
Feedback (descriptive)
Feedback (giving)
Feedback (receiving)

Framework
Infusion
Integration
Learning Communities

Learning Organizations

Mentor
Norms/Ground Rules
Performance Based Assessment
Press for Achievement
Probing Questions
Professional Conversations(teachers)
Professional Teacher Portfolios
Protocols
Reflection
Reflective Practice
Rubric
School Culture
School Reform
Standards
Student Engagement
Student Work
Support Networks
Team Building
Triads/Dyads
Trust Building
Whole School Change

 

Adaptive Practice
A teaching response possible when teachers who know their students--their learning styles, their current level of knowledge and skills--adjust their teaching practice accordingly, without lowering their standards.
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Alternative Assessment
Assessment of students that attempts to go beyond traditional "paper and pencil" tests. Alternative Assessments include various types of assessment in which students are active learners and questioning thinkers. Alternative assessments are considered "authentic" when their context, purpose, audience, and constraints connect in some way to real world problems and situations; for example, learning how to change a flat tire and then being assessed by actually doing it.
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Artifacts
Objects that are generated by the learning/teaching process become useful indicators of what may or may not be going on in our classrooms. The important thing here is that artifacts can serve as one form of evidence of the kind of teaching and learning that is going on--at the classroom and/or whole school level(s).

Clarifying Questions
Questions that need to be answered in order to clearly understand what one is being asked to do. Clarifying questions are often formulated by individuals who really want to understand what kind of feedback they are being asked to provide for a colleague. Clarifying questions are not judgmental nor evaluative in nature.
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Classroom Culture
Classroom culture is the bedrock upon which all teaching and learning rests. It includes the norms established by the teacher (or teacher and students collaboratively, or by default by the students if the teacher fails to actively do the work) for classroom interactions, for expectations of engagement and work output, for use of time, and for specific responsibilities of teacher and students. The culture includes the assumptions (stated or implicit) about the nature of teaching and learning.

Coach
A view of teaching which is student-centered, supportive, challenging, models desired outcomes, and allows students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. Teachers who assume the role of coach regularly provide students with constructive feedback designed to improve learning and "push" performance towards high standards.
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Collegial Communities
Communities of educators that can be defined by mutual respect and a high degree professionalism among equals.
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Collegiality
Relationships among professional educators characterized by mutual respect among equals. Collegiality is evident when teachers share responsibility for improved practice and for improved student achievement. They demonstrate this by developing together shared student goals, standards for students and for themselves, and classroom culture expectations. They also demonstrate this by providing mutual feedback regarding each other's teaching practice and the nature of the work of each other's students.
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Competencies
A statement of what a student should know and be able to do at the end of a particular instructional cycle.
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Connections
A process used by groups to initiate work sessions by providing every member time to reflect and/or share things that are on his/her mind that might get in the way of the work. The object is to lay the "stuff" on the table so that it does not creep into the work that is about to begin.
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Constructivism
A theory about knowledge and learning which asserts that learners construct their own understanding of the world around them. Constructivist teaching is student-centered and attempts to create learning contexts in which students actively grapple with big issues and questions instead of being passive recipients of "teacher knowledge."
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Critical Friends
Teachers whose relationship is such that they can sit down with each other's work (lesson plans, classroom observation notes) on the table between them and talk about the work - its strengths, weaknesses, what can be improved, and suggestions for how that might be done. This discussion of the work is clearly separated from the "me" of both. The atmosphere is one of mutual trust and freedom from fear.
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Critical Friends Group (CFG)
A Critical Friends Groups represents the basic unit of support for educators engaged in improving schools and increasing student achievement. A Critical Friends Group generally range between six to twelve teachers and administrators who commit themselves to two years of learning to work together with the aim of establishing student learning outcomes and increasing student achievement. A Critical Friends Group usually meet for two hours per month at which they establish and publicly state student learning goals, help each other think about improving teaching practices, collaboratively examine student work, and identify school culture issues that affect student achievement. Group members also observe one another at work at least monthly and offer feedback to each other in challenging but non-threatening ways.
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Debriefing
Group activity designed to elicit participant reactions, thoughts, and responses to a process. Debriefings can be initiated by asking participants: "What happened?" and "How did we feel about it?"
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Dialogue

A conversation or exchange of ideas between individuals. The emphasis is on active ("deep") listening and responding by building on what has been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding together. Although participants may challenge ideas or raise questions, the idea is to create understanding rather than debate each other.
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Discussion
An exchange of ideas between individuals. What differentiates a discussion from a dialogue is that less emphasis is placed on active listening and on trying to get to a higher level of understanding among the participants. Discussions tend to be more competitive and often resemble debates in the sense that they may yield "winners" and "losers."

Essential Questions
The big questions around which learning is structured. Essential questions are by nature divergent and can lead learners down many different paths of inquiry. An example might be: "Why do traditional school structures tend to separate learners and learning?"

Examining Student Work
The idea here is that teachers can learn much from careful, thoughtful, and often collective examination of student work. There are different processes (protocols) that can be used to accomplish this.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions are high stakes demonstrations of mastery--of the important things that students should know and be able to do. Exhibitions are generally multifaceted, public, involve an audience, and set high standards.

Facilitation
A process intended to make something easier. Facilitation requires many important interpersonal skills, most of which center on initiating, maintaining, monitoring, and concluding different forms of structured group activities.
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Facilitative Leader
The Facilitative Leader is someone who is aware of group and organizational dynamics and who creates organization–wide involvement processes which help members to be fully engaged. Facilitative Leaders can be teachers, CFG Coaches, building administrators, etc. They incorporate sound facilitation skills and practices into their work.

Facilitator
Someone who takes responsibility for initiating, maintaining, monitoring, and concluding structured group activities. The main role of a facilitator is to maintain the integrity of the process and attend to the needs of the participants while being as unobtrusive as possible.

Faculty Buy-In
The degree to which a faculty supports a particular idea or initiative. Faculty buy-in is usually a function of the degree to which the idea(s) to be "bought" are understood by those who are being asked to "buy" them. People will tend to buy-in when they have been invited to consider, reflect, and provide input as partners in the process instead of being told what they are to "buy."

Feedback (descriptive)
A means of communicating with others by describing their work. Although feedback is usually evaluative in nature, descriptive feedback is literal and non judgmental. It is geared primarily towards a deeper understanding of the work in question instead of evaluating it.

Feedback (giving)
A process that is often solicited (formally or informally) by a colleague in need of a particular type of information related to his/her work. The important thing to remember here is that this is essentially a communication process that works best when it is constructive rather than destructive. Giving constructive feedback is not easy and it does not come naturally to many. It must be learned and practiced and works best in a context of trust and mutual respect.

Feedback (receiving)
This is the other side of the "communication coin." Like giving feedback, this is not easy and for the most part does not come naturally to many of us who have worked individually and in isolation for most of our teaching careers. It must be learned and practiced and requires a special emphasis on active listening and controlling the reactive reflex which so often prevents our ability to reflect and learn from others' feedback.

Framework
Broad, overarching concepts and ideas grounded in national and state reform research for the development of curriculum and instruction.

Infusion
The integration of a given subject area into a second subject area for the purpose of increasing understanding and relevance.

Integration
The blending together of content and skills in order to arrive at a more holistic understanding of a particular context, issue, topic, or event. Integration can occur across two or more subject areas at a particular grade level (horizontal) and across one or more subject areas in multiple grade levels (vertical). The School-to-Work Opportunities Act defines integration or "integrated learning" as a curriculum which combines academic and occupational study with work experience. Curriculum integration can occur at a several levels: parallel--two or more teachers from different subject areas agree to focus on the same theme, concept, or problem for a predetermined period of time; multidisciplinary--two or more subject areas are brought together to address the same theme; interdisciplinary--a theme or issue studied across two or more subject areas with significantly more blurring of subject boundaries; integrated day--two or more subject areas are used to study a theme or problem derived from students' interests; and holistic--all learning (formal and informal) is integrated at a whole-school level.

Learning Communities
A group of people having common interests. Learning communities are characterized by trust, sharing, participation, fellowship, reflection, and continuous learning and improvement.

Learning Organizations
According to Peter Senge, Director of the Center for Organizational Learning at M. I. T., a learning organization is an organization whose members collectively and continuously work on improving their capacity to create the things they really want to create.

Mentor
Someone who is trusted, respected, and serves as a counselor and/or teacher of others.
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Norms/Ground Rules
A set of rules arrived at by group consensus designed to guide the behaviors of its members and establish a safe, ordered, and productive context for their work.

Performance Based Assessment
Assessments in which teachers evaluate the student's skill(s) by asking the student to perform tasks that require the skill(s). The student must use his/her knowledge to do something in a variety of ways.

Press for Achievement
Evidence of a press for achievement includes the following: a teacher's high expectations for learning are explicitly stated, a lesson's stated goals are nontrivial, teacher questioning elicits higher order thinking, coherence exists among the components of a lesson and the classroom culture supports (rather than hinders) learning.

Probing Questions
Questions that attempt to "push" a conversation deeper, add to, or challenge ideas being considered are probing questions. They are often used to explore the underlying assumptions of a particular argument or line of thought.

Professional Conversations (teachers)

Conversations that involve people at multiple levels thinking and talking together about significant and enduring solutions to educational problems. For school people these conversations should inevitably lead to improving classroom practice and student achievement.

Professional Teacher Portfolios
A professional teacher portfolio is a public collection of work that gives evidence of a kind of teaching that leads to increased student achievement.

Protocols
Protocols are structured processes designed for specific purposes usually related to the collective examination of teacher/student work. The Tuning Protocol, Consultancy, Descriptive Review, and Collaborative Assessment Conference are examples of these types of protocols.

Reflection
A process which involves mental concentration and careful consideration both individually and collectively for the purpose of generating new learning -and/or deeper understanding.

Reflective Practice
Teaching which is characterized and shaped by an on-going personal and collective conversation which aims at improving teaching and learning. Reflective practice involves teachers talking about what they do and why they do it. The "why" is something more than feeling, opinion, preference; it's based on evidence, research, theory. The teachers talk about where the "why" came from (something they read, learned at a conference/workshop, heard from another teacher, learned during their training, learned in the CFG... ). Reflection is ongoing, not a one-time revelation that "sets" a teacher's pedagogy for life.
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Rubrics
Rubrics are tools designed to help us assess the quality of a performance against a specified standard of success. They identify and specify the particular traits of any successful performance.
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School Culture
The organization, structure, and practices deliberately carried out to create a school climate. It also includes the norms established by the principal (or principal and teachers collaboratively) for professional interactions, and for expectations for student learning (standards stated or implicit).
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School Reform
This is usually a term used to mean the attempt to improve schools. It is not a new term in the history of American education. The first major milestone in the current generation of education reform appeared in 1983 with the publication of the report A Nation at Risk. The report outlined the poor state of affairs within the K-12 environment, from low basic comprehension rates to high dropout rates. A Nation at Risk became the call to arms for administrators and policy makers and ushered in what became known as the first wave of education reform.
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Standards
According to Grant P. Wiggins, Director of Programs for the Center on Learning, Assessment, and School Structure (CLASS), standards are goals based on ideal levels of performance for all but the world's best performers in every field. It is in our attempt to reach standards that we can measure our growth.
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Student Engagement
Student engagement has two dimensions, one in the context of the classroom and any given lesson, and a second in terms of a student's individual personal commitment to his/her own learning. Engagement in the classroom is manifested by student(s) attending to the task at hand during the lesson. Individual engagement is manifested by students asking more than routine questions during the lesson, and by their doing individual project work or homework more than perfunctorily.

Student Work
Student work is one or more of these three components (in any combination): artifacts (writing or tangible products of projects), classroom behavior and performances( records of classroom behavior or performances).

Support Networks
Communities of educators within and across schools, districts, states, regions, and nations which are engaged in a variety of kindred school reform efforts and initiatives.

Team Building
Processes and experiences done collectively for the purpose of constructing and strengthening relationships between and among groups of individuals who have a common task and who need each other to accomplish it.

Triads/Dyads
Triads (groups of three) and Dyads (pairs) are often used to divide a larger group into smaller units to accomplish a particular task.

Trust Building
A process which aims to increase reliance on the integrity, character, and/or abilities of the members of a group and increases confidence in their ability to care for one another.
A vivid picture of what should be, could be and might become used to guide actions in the present.
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Whole School Change
Whole school change can occur when a critical mass of personnel in the school are engaged in reflective practice intended to improve teacher practice and student learning. The school community is engaged in modifying the organization, structure, and culture of the school in order to support the improvements.
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Harmony Education Center

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