Education Dis-ease

I have been an educator for over thirty years: from elementary school to a tier-one research institution. I have noticed over the years, a general trend that I find curious…at the very least.

Education, like any other discipline, has it’s own vocabulary…words like “objective,” “rubric,” yes, even “assessment” and “evaluation” have specific and clear meanings grounded in foundational articles. As an educator, I prefer to use the disciplinary language: it is how I understand and communicate my discipline. And yet, in every school culture in which I have worked, I have experienced a general disdain for the use of education’s disciplinary language. I am often cautioned by well-meaning colleagues to avoid any use of “educational jargon,” while addressing faculty about…any educational issue: program design and evaluation; formative assessment; instructional strategies for English language learners; institutional change; academic outcomes versus objectives. The good news, I guess, is that folks are asking complex questions about teaching and learning, but I do find the general pejorative tenor towards educational vocabulary a bit confining. How can I discuss and explain the unique nuances and complexities of teaching and learning with out the language of my discipline?

Over the years I have noticed a general erosion of of our disciplinary language; “academic outcomes” are incorrectly referred to as “objectives;” I hear the term “assessment” used when in fact it is “evaluation” that is actually being discussed. This curious avoidance of educational vocabulary has unfortunately led to general misconceptions about curriculum and instruction. One of the most common misunderstandings is in the area of accreditation and accountability. In a good-willed effort to provide accreditors with “evidence of student learning” faculty often spend hours of valuable time reviewing syllabi design…which in fact, is an issue of curricular design…far from the act of implementation…and even farther from discerning the degree and breadth of student learning.

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