Below are explanations for some terms you might encounter on this site. If you have one you think should be added to the glossary, please let us know.
Achievement gap: persistent differences in achievement among different types of learners as indicated by scores on standardized tests, teacher grades, and other data. The gaps most frequently referred to are those between rural and urban, female and male, majority and minority language learners.
Action research: action research involves identifying a question or problem and then collecting and analyzing relevant data. It is called action research because the participants are studying an aspect of their own work and they intend to use the results themselves.
Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey: a large-scale, international comparative assessment designed to identify and measure a range of skills linked to the social and economic characteristics of individuals across (or within) nations. The survey provides information on the skills and attitudes of adults aged 16 to 65 in a number of different areas, including: prose and document literacy, numeracy, and analytical reasoning and problem solving.
At-risk students: learners who have a higher than average probability of dropping out or failing school. Broad categories usually include inner-city, low-income and homeless children; those not fluent in English or French; and special-needs learners with emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Authentic learning: learning related to real-life situations—the kinds of problems faced by learners, consumers or professionals. Authentic learning situations require teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to organize and prioritize tasks needed to complete the project.
Class size: the number of learners taught by a single teacher.
Cognitive learning: the mental processes involved in learning, such as remembering and understanding facts and ideas. Educators have always been interested in how people learn, but are now becoming better informed about cognition from the work of cognitive psychologists, who in recent years have compiled new information about thinking and learning.
Composite Learning Index (CLI): CCL's Composite Learning Index measures learning conditions favourable to the economic and social well-being of Canadians. The Index is a combination of 16 key learning indicators that show at a glance how well Canada is doing in the field of lifelong learning. Specifically designed to measure and report on the state of learning in Canada—over time and by region—the CLI includes data on formal and informal learning across the lifespan and includes indicators about knowledge acquisition, knowledge application, learning for personal development, and learning that is required for people to live together.
Co-operative learning: a teaching strategy combining teamwork with individual and group accountability. Working in small groups, with individuals of varying talents, abilities and backgrounds, learners are given one or more tasks. The teacher or the group often assigns each team member a personal responsibility that is essential to successful completion of the task.
Dataset: the individual-level results of a survey, conceptualized as a table or "matrix" where the rows are individual respondents and their answers, and can include values derived from those answers, typically stored as numbers. Datasets may be used for secondary analysis.
Differentiated instruction: a form of instruction that seeks to maximize each learner's growth by offering several different learning experiences in response to learners' varied needs. Learning activities and materials may be varied by difficulty to challenge learners at different readiness levels, by topic in response to learners' interests, and by learners' preferred ways of learning or expressing themselves.
Disaggregated data: test scores or other data divided so that various categories can be compared. For example, schools may break down data for the entire student population (aggregated into a single set of numbers) to determine how minority students are doing compared with the majority, or how scores of girls compare with those of boys.
Distance learning: taking classes in locations other than the classroom or places where teachers present the lessons. Distance learning uses various forms of technology, especially television and computers, to provide educational materials and experiences to learners. Many colleges and universities broadcast credit courses for learners who live in isolated locations or who, for other reasons, cannot attend classes on campus.
Dropout rate: the proportion of students between 20 and 24 years of age who are not currently in school and who have not completed secondary school.
Dyslexia: a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Effect size: the magnitude of a result in relation to a standard normal distribution. An effect size of +/- 1.0 would indicate that the result was 1 standard deviation above or below the mean. For example, on a test with scores normally distributed from 0 to 100, an effect size of + .5 would indicate that the result was approximately 17% above the mean of 50, in other words 67%.
Formal, job-related training: courses or programs related to a worker’s current or future job. These courses and programs have a structured plan whereby a learner, led by a teacher or trainer, follows a planned program and receives formal recognition upon completion, such as a certificate, diploma or degree.
Functional illiteracy: the inability to read or write well enough to perform many necessary tasks in life, such as writing a cheque, filling out a job application, reading a classified advertisement, or understanding a newspaper headline.
Gender bias: the idea that one gender is at a disadvantage compared with the other gender. The term may refer to the difficulties males may have in conforming to classroom routines and learning to read and write, or it may refer to lower average achievement by females in science, mathematics, and technology. Bias is sometimes suspected when test results consistently favour one gender.
Indicator: something measured that signifies a state or level of performance or achievement. For example, an indicator for the level of post-secondary attainment might be the percentage of working-age population which has completed a post-secondary program. For a list of indicators selected for the Composite Learning Index, please click here.
Phonemes: the distinct units of sound that distinguish one word from another.
Phonemic awareness: the ability to detect individual letter sounds.
Phonological awareness: the ability to hear and distinguish parts of speech such as syllables, rhymes and letter sounds.
Program: a series of courses leading toward a degree, diploma or certificate. Formal programs include high-school completion programs, registered apprenticeship, trade and vocational programs, college, CEGEP and university programs. In 2002, nearly one in four of those who participated in formal, job-related training took a program.
Evidence-based research: research in which the conclusions are reached by, among other things, the systematic collection of empirical evidence rather than on editorial opinion unsupported by evidence.
Human capital: Productive wealth embodied in labour, skills and knowledge.
Mathematical literacy: the capacity to identify, understand and engage in mathematics and make well-founded judgements about the role that mathematics plays in one's life.
Pillars of learning: the UNESCO Commission on 21st Century Education, the OECD, and Canada's provincial and territorial governments recognize four key pillars of learning. These four pillars are:
PIRLS: Progress in Reading Literacy Study undertaken by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement in 2001, focussing on the acquisition of reading literacy of grade 4 students.
PISA: stands for Programme for International Student Assessment , which is an internationally standardized assessment that was jointly developed by participating countries and administered to15-year-olds in schools. The survey was implemented in 43 countries in the first assessment in 2000, in 41 countries in the second assessment in 2003 and at least 58 countries will participate in the third assessment in 2006. Tests are typically administered to between 4,500 and 10,000 students in each country.
Pupil–teacher ratio: The enrolment of pupils at a given period of time, divided by the full-time-equivalent number of certificated education professionals (teachers, administrators, counsellors, etc.) serving these pupils during the same period.
Reading literacy: the ability to understand use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve goals, develop knowledge or potential, and participate effectively in society.
Rural/urban: the division between people who live in urban environments and those who do not. Rural inhabitants often have less access to learning resources that are common in urban environments.
Self-directed learning: informal training or self-directed learning refers to activities such as: seeking advice from someone knowledgeable; using the internet or other software; observing someone performing a task; consulting books or manuals; or teaching yourself different ways of doing certain tasks.
Statistical significance: is a measure of how likely it is that the reported result or difference was obtained by chance. For example, a result that is significant at the .05 level, the likelihood that the result was obtained by chance is less than 5 times out of 100. If the result of difference was significant at the .01 level, the result or difference was likely to have occurred less than once out of one hundred times.
Student–teacher ratio: see pupil–teacher ratio.
Survival rates: the proportion of new entrants to a specified level of education who successfully complete their first qualification.
Vocational programs: programs that prepare participants for direct entry, without further training, into specific occupations.
Web-based learning: the use of the internet and internet technologies to pursue an organized program of studies.
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