Key Concepts

Aggregation — This term is used in two very different senses:
1. Aggregation across discrete learning outcomes—for example, aggregating assessment items to obtain an overall test score. This is the traditional/conventional process of combining ratings or test items in order to return a single (aggregate) number (often a weighted sum) that is intended to reflect performance or quality. This type of aggregation provides a simpler or more compact view of overall performance, but sacrifices the information needed to inform instructional planning and educational improvement decisions in general.

2. Aggregation of discrete learning outcomes across groups—for example, aggregating assessment results such as the proportion of students who attained a learning outcome in a class, school or state). As long as the discrete nature of the learning outcome (i.e., alignment to a discrete learning goal) is maintained aggregation across groups maintains the information needed for evaluation, planning and decision making at its respective level of aggregation. Such information may be disaggregated to see how members of population subgroups (e.g., gender) are performing. This type of information and aggregation can be used to support instructional planning, evaluation, resource allocation and professional development.

Assessment — see Educational Assessment

Core Capabilities—capabilities that provide a foundation for concurrent learning, future learning and productive application to situations that will be met outside of the educational setting. Core capabilities may have a moral, logical or empirical basis. Moral in that they represent a valued human quality or attribute that can be developed through education, e.g., the ability to read. Logical in that there is reason to believe that the targeted capability will have the desired relationship to concurrent and future learning and application outside of school settings. Empirical when this relationship has been demonstrated through research.

Critical Level of Specificity — the level of specificity at which a learning goal is useful for planning, carrying out, and evaluating instruction.

Curriculum— the set of learning goals underlying an educational activity or program. “A structured set of intended learning outcomes” {Johnson, 1977 #94}.

Disaggregation — See aggregation.

Educational Activities—taken in a comprehensive sense includes, or should include, the fundamental features of educational processes— curriculum, assessment, instruction, and evaluation. Johnson has shown how such features each have distinct planning, implementation, and evaluation aspects {Johnson, 1977 #94}.

Educational Assessment—obtaining, analyzing, and presenting information on how well discrete learning goals have been attained. The word assessment as used in Knowing the Learner generally has this meaning.

Educational Evaluation—the practice of applying information (assessment results and other information) in planning and decision making to increase the value of educational activities and programs. The word evaluation as used in Knowing the Learner always has this meaning. More specifically we can think of working to improve all of the inferences, conclusions, generalizations, value judgments, and decisions that arise from systematic examination of educational programs, activities, and outcomes.

Educational Events—the interactions in time and space between teacher and learner directed to realizing (helping learners attain) learning goals. They are meetings around the theme of one or more learning goals. Educational events are the special moments when efforts are being made to realize the attainment of learning goals. Why must educational events include learning goals? This is because explicitly or not, consciously or not, educational activities are directed primarily to the attainment of capabilities. Learning goals represent those desired capabilities.

Educational Settings—the physical locations in which the learner is found during educational events.

Educational Programs—the formal venues for providing educational activities—e.g., institutions such as primary schools and universities, formal courses of study but also training programs, workshops, MOOCs etc.

Evaluation — see Educational Evaluation.

Empirical (adv. Empirically) — based on or verifiable by observation or experience. This is as opposed to judgments based exclusively on authority, tradition or logic. Piaget was fond of replying to conventional assertions concerning psychology or education by saying, “It’s an empirical question,” meaning that it something that should be established systematically through experience.

High-stakes, norm-referenced testing and grading (HSNR) —
In general, high stakes means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers).

From the Glossary of Educational Reform

Norm-referenced refers to standardized tests that are designed to compare and rank test takers in relation to one another. Norm-referenced tests report whether test takers performed better or worse than a hypothetical average student, which is determined by comparing scores against the performance results of a statistically selected group of test takers, typically of the same age or grade level, who have already taken the exam. From the Glossary of Educational Reform

Note that we do not feel that this practice is limited to standardized tests but is a central feature of conventional testing and grading in general.

Instruction — any effort made, directly in relationship with learners, to help them attain one or more learning goals. In other words anything that is done with a student to support the attainment of a learning goal.

Intended Learning Outcome— see Learning Goal.

Learning Goal— (also intended learning outcome) a statement of the intention to develop or facilitate the attainment of a human capability, e.g., a concept, skill, or disposition.

Practical Learning Goal— a discrete learning goal stated at a level of specificity appropriate for instruction.

Practical Learning Outcome — assessment results associated or aligned with a practical learning goal.

Rubric — a descriptive or explanatory guide (often with examples) to the levels of attainment of a practical learning goal or outcome.

Tests (conventional) — instruments in which student performance on items reflecting diverse learning goals are given values (typically numeric) and then summed to yield a total score.

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