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Above and Beyond. Work that is available to students who have mastered the essential learning goals and are ready for more challenging work. By definition, this work is not going to be assessed.
Academic materialism. The relentless desire to accumulate points, regardless of whether learning is taking place or not. Academic materialism is the source of the legalistic arguments some students will want to engage in about whether their grade is an “A” or an “A-“. Parents, and even teachers can sometimes fall into this mindset.
Appropriate socializing. The ability of a group to be self-governing while engaged in conversational learning requires knowing how to work well together - be effective at teaching and learning from each other - and having the ability to recover from diversions reasonably quickly and smoothly. It means being able to maintain an acceptable rate of on-task behavior when working as a group, and doing so without external constraints or being forced to do so by a teacher.
Check-up. Any form of feedback that tests a student’s understanding of new material, particularly as a lead-in to differentiated learning. Check-ups are best when ungraded, so that they don't create any perverse motivations and stimulate doing school.
Comfort zone. A situation where the level of challenge of new material is appropriate for the level of expertise a student has. (See Panic zone and Drone zone).
Curriculum Transfer model. This way of thinking about schools assumes that the central purpose of education is to have every student absorb the entire set of curricular standards. The issue of what students become in the process is generally of little importance. (See "Preparing for Life model")
Differentiation by level of challenge. Responding to the needs of individual students by offering varied activities that range from remediation and practice through enrichment.
Differentiation by learning style. Responding to the needs of individual students by offering varied activities that allow students with different learning styles and modes to approach the material.
Differentiation by pace. Recognizing that some students master material more quickly than others and create structures that don't penalize them or bore them by making them wait for everyone else to catch up.
Differentiation by topic. Responding the the varying interests that students have by allowing them a say in pursuing topics that they want to learn about.
Differentiated remediation. Following a test or other assessment, the process of learning from mistakes must be responsive to the needs of individual students. This means that some students will have more work to do to continue learning material that they got wrong on a test, while others may be done with that unit.
Differentiated test preparation. In preparing for an assessment, students need feedback about what they still need to master, and the ability to focus on that. Making every student prepare for a test in the same way ensures that some students, who have mastered the material, will be bored, and others will not get the specific help they need.
Doing school. The behaviors and attitudes of students who are gaming the system; they go through the motions of learning to get good grades, because that is their primary goal in school.
Doing school is a compelling simulation of learning, but it commonly sabotages deep and meaningful learning. A common example is when a student crams for a test, gets a good grade, and promptly forgets the material. She celebrates the grade, unconcerned that little or no actual learning has taken place.
Drone Zone. A situation where the level of challenge of new material is too low for the level of expertise a student has. Being in the drone zone results in boredom. (See Comfort zone and Panic zone).
Essential learning goals. Some curricular goals are necessary in the preparing students to lead satisfying, engaged, and productive lives. Other goals may be important for students to be exposed to. Still others should be available for students to learn, if they desire (and are able) to dive in more deeply. In general, only essential learning goals should be assessed as standards.
Experiential learning goals. These are the wide-ranging goals that every student should be exposed to in order to learn about themselves and what they are interested in and/or have a propensity for. Experiential learning goals are the heart of a solid liberal arts education.
Formative assessment. Any assessment that has an integrated remediation process designed to let students learn from their mistakes. Formative assessments are an essential component of the learning process.
Genuine learning. Learning that engages the whole student, that results in true integration of new concepts and skills, and which is integrated into the personal growth of the student.
Intrinsic drive. The universal, innate desire to create, to learn, and to excel at an activity or skill for the sheer pleasure of it. It is the internal, powerful wellspring of genuine learning. Intrinsic drive can be corroded by both negative and positive external motivators, such as grades. (See Perverse motivation.)
Isolating the difficulty. Being able to identify the specific impediment that blocks mastery. This can be a sub-skill that is part of a larger and more comprehensive skill, or one step of a process of learning or problem solving. Isolating the difficulty is an essential part of the skill of metacognition, and is one technique in cultivating tenacity (rather than giving up because "I just don't get it").
Learning sequences. The design of a series of basic building blocks, (such as introduction, exploration, individual metacognitive work, group work, and open work time), that make up the student's experience of learning.
Learning contract. A structure designed to guide differentiated learning by organizing the work options a student can choose from. Learning contracts can range from minicontracts of two or three items to unit contracts that cover three weeks of study.
Long term memory. Memory that is truly integrated and persists over years, not days or weeks. Long term memory is a central aspect of genuine learning. (See Working memory.)
Minicontract. The structure needed to give students a choice between several activities based on their need at the moment. Minicontracts are often used during open work time.
Open work time. Any class time where students are free to choose what they want to do to master the material. Open work time is when differentiated learning occurs in the classroom.
Panic zone. A situation where the level of challenge of new material is too high for the level of expertise a student has and results in being overwhelmed. (See Comfort zone and Drone zone).
Personal outcomes. The qualities that identify how well a student is doing the job of being an effective learner and member of the classroom community.
Perverse incentives. A systemic problem that is seen when managerial decisions results in the opposite of their intended purpose. For example, when a teacher rewards homework with points in an attempt to get students to do more homework and learn from it, and the net effect is that students do the work without paying attention to learning because they are intent on accumulating points.
Perverse incentives are the central, if unintentional, mechanism for training students in the bad habits of doing school. It causes them to work for external rewards - accumulating points, currying favor with a teacher, improving their GPAs, etc, - regardless of whether learning is taking place. Worse, perverse incentives actively corrode a student's intrinsic drive.
Prime Directive. "The purpose of school is to prepare students to live satisfying, engaged, and productive lives." This is the fundamental philosophical basis on which all classroom decisions, large and small, are made.
Prime Directive for the classroom. The modified version of the prime directive that can be shared with students is this: "Our purpose is for every one of us to learn as much and grow as much as possible. Everything we do in this room is based on that purpose."
Protocontract. A useful technique for establishing the contents of a learning contract while a teacher is first experimenting with differentiated learning. It allows the students and the teacher to add items as they are introduced, rather than knowing what they will be at the start of the contract.
Preparing for Life model. The approach to education that is based on the Prime Directive. (See Curriculum Transfer Model)
Self-directed differentiation. Differentiated learning in which the student chooses what he or she needs to do to master the material.
Sharing the wealth. Opportunities for students to teach and learn from each other through conversational learning. Sharing the wealth is one of the major techniques for dismantling the bell curve.
Snapshot. A technique for a teacher to get feedback from students about their state of mastery over new material. Snapshots are informal, quick, and very useful in steering the pace of a class.
Test resubmittal. One technique for remediation following a poor test result. Resubmittals are particularly relevant to conceptual (as opposed to skills-based) learning.
Unit contract. A learning contract that organizes all the material for a complete unit of study.
Ungraded feedback. When feedback is separated from grades, any of a myriad of forms of structures can be used to reveal a student's level of mastery to the student and/or the teacher.
Working memory. The ability to recall new material for days or weeks. The kind of memory is used in the "learning" that takes place when a student is doing school. Cramming for a test is intentionally storing material into working memory long enough to answer questions correctly. Being able to remember the material months or years later (actually learning it) is a tangential consideration.