Education Cheat Sheet: 7 Terms to Know Now (and One to Tuck Away for the Future)

Could a flipped classroom help your child develop metacognition? If you're confused by current education terms we understand. Here is a handy explainer for seven phrases you may be hearing in school.

Photo: Courtesy of Holy Nativity School

Editor’s Note: There is no question that the way kids learn today is vastly different than the by-the-book lessons of my school days. But today, the world of education changes more quickly than decade-to-decade. It seems new phrases and terms crop up every year. How can parents keep up? We received some help from Holy Nativity School’s Jyo Bridgewater.

Let’s be honest: it can seem as though modern life is rife with terminology designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten. Education is no exception. Now that the term “21st century skills” seems silly and outdated—it’s 2019, people!—what do parents need to know? Is there anything really new under the sun? There is! Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Growth mindset —Advances in neuroscience provide the basis of a number of key phrases. Inherent in this idea is the understanding that the brain is plastic and adaptive, and that most abilities are usually able to be influenced through challenge and work. This affects the entire focus of lessons and assignments and the design of feedback. While acquiring a specific skill remains a goal, it is the acquisition process that matters most and that is the primary benefit to the student.
  2. Data informed also has its roots in science. This term indicates that decisions or programs are made with consideration of relevant evidence. It makes sense, for example, for a student to receive more practice in an area of struggle than in long-mastered skills, where periodic review checks may be more appropriate. The means, content and frequency of assessment should be need driven, data informed.
  3. Design thinking starts with empathy and reflection and uses an infinitely flexible process to define a problem, brainstorm solutions, create a prototype and test it. In our sixth grade classroom, we’ve used this to solve problems ranging from our leaving the door open (letting birds in and wasting electricity) to supporting our campus terns to what study techniques work well for different individuals.
  4. Design Thinking, therefore, has been a powerful tool for students to develop metacognition (“thinking about thinking”), giving them invaluable insights into their own learning. Metacognition is the data driven foundation for the self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-advocacy students need for long-term success.
  5. Sometimes, a word or phrase refers to a specific instructional practice, like flipped classroom. A great way to maximize impact and provide opportunities for students to receive the specific help they need, lesson explanation and individual practice are “flipped”—students receive the lesson at home, perhaps through a video, and then work on it at school, where they can benefit from the presence of the teacher.
  6. Your child’s school may use project-based learning (PBL) to promote critical thinking, collaboration, and give authentic practice in student choice. PBL requires a student group to formulate a focusing, essential, real-life question, explore it, and formulate responses. In its integration of skills in an authentic setting, PBL has formed the philosophic and instructional core of some schools.
  7. Imagine an environment that facilitates thinking, experimentation, and creativity, and you have envisioned a makerspace. What I love about these designated areas for construction, is that there is such a range of interpretations and budget, including “pop up” (temporary) spaces, that students who learn best through engineering and hands on experiences have more and more opportunity to do this at school.

Finally, one to watch. Biomimicry is not new. It means what it sounds like—using lessons from the natural world to innovate and solve problems. Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stick to animal fur. The problem of “tunnel boom” for the bullet train in Japan was solved through study of bird beaks. And, our own familiar gecko, in particular the nanostructures on its feet, have informed development of tape and bandages. Lessons in biomimicry are an engaging reminder of how much Earth’s creatures can learn with and from each other.

Parent resources:

Jyo Bridgewater is the principal and sixth grade teacher at Holy Nativity School in ‘Aina Haina, where she tries to learn a new term of art every day!