Education Terms All Parents Should Know

Friday, April 8, 2016 -- Sarah Cornelius

As a parent, have you ever looked at an email from your child’s teacher or a progress report and wondered if you were reading a different language? As with any other field, education has its own jargon with an ever-growing and changing catalogue of buzzwords, acronyms, terms, and sayings. For educators, this language is familiar and a part of everyday conversation. But for parents, it can easily leave heads spinning.

Today, we want to break down a few important terms you’ve probably heard your child’s teacher use so that you can be sure you know exactly what that next email or progress report is referring to!

Next-Generation Assessments

A next-generation assessments is a blanket term for any test that is administered in an online environment. These assessments are designed to take a more accurate measurement of students’ content mastery than traditional pencil-and-paper multiple choice tests. To do so, they include questions known as technology-enhanced item types, which leverage technology to ask students to complete more complex, critical-thinking tasks. A few common item types are pictured below:

Technology Enhanced Item Types

Next-generation assessments are a critical aspect of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and will continue to play a significant role in the state-based testing reforms. Check out this blog post on Preparing Students for Next-Generation Assessments to learn more.

Project-Based Learning

One of the key trends in education today is a push for a more student-centered approach to learning. Project-based learning (PBL) has emerged as a popular strategy to achieve this. With a PBL curriculum, learning is based around completing a real-world task or solving a problem instead of merely memorizing information. For example, instead of simply reading a textbook about the negative effects of water pollution, students could be tasked with organizing a river clean-up in their community.

This model helps many students see more of a “point” to their learning and, in turn, engage with the material on a deeper, more engaged level. PBL also offers valuable opportunities for students to direct their own learning by choosing the project(s) they will complete. Take a look at this blog post on Project-Based Learning and Next-Generation Standards to learn more about how PBL can work in the classroom.

 

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Maker Ed

The maker movement goes far beyond education—but it’s working its way into more and more schools and classrooms. Maker ed focuses on the power of learning through firsthand experience, the importance of working directly with new technologies and materials, and the basic human instinct to create.

To support this kind of teaching and learning, many schools and classrooms are creating “makerspaces” where students have access to a variety of materials with which to tinker, experiment, and create. These makerspaces include high-tech labs where students can get hands-on experience with tools like robots or 3D printers and classroom corners filled with found materials like paper, buttons, clay, or anything else that can be repurposed. Regardless of the resources available, the goal of maker ed is all about tapping into student creativity and innovation. For more info, check out this blog post from Scholastic explaining what the maker movement is and its value in the classroom.

Depth of Knowledge

Depth of knowledge (DOK) is a term that gets referenced a lot when talking about assessment. DOK is a framework for understanding academic rigor. It’s designed to be a common language system to help educators determine how complex various pieces of content, tasks, and standards are. The DOK framework includes four levels of content complexity, illustrated in the infographic below:

DOK Infographic

These levels help teachers evaluate classroom materials, design classroom tasks to foster critical thinking, and ultimately, evaluate how well their students are comprehending and mastering different concepts and skills. For a closer look at the DOK framework, check out this blog post on the basics of the four DOK levels.

At Edmentum, we know how powerful a parent’s involvement in a child’s education is, and we work hard to design solutions that improve the home-to-school connection. Learn more about how we make parent engagement a priority.