Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
peer assessment

evaluation carried out by one or more learners on the work or performance of another learner or group of learners. It is argued that the involvement of a fellow learner can result in better feedback or in a better response to such feedback and also that the involvement of learners in this way in the assessment process aids their own understanding of the topic/task/material.

peer pressure

the social pressure felt to conform to the actions behaviour values or attitudes of one's peers. It can have positive or negative consequences depending on the nature of the peer group and the perspective taken.

per capita

a Latin term - literally 'by heads' - meaning for each person or in relation to people taken individually (see capitation).


the view that the purpose of schooling is to inculcate in the young the fixed body of knowledge and social and cultural attitudes possessed by the community/society in question. It is an ultra-conservative  traditionalist outlook.


how something is done carried out or executed. Assessment and evaluation of performance is prevalent through out the education system from that of learners of teachers as well as being conducted at departmental institutional and government levels.

performance indicators

measures of effective performance often statistical related to the objectives or responsibilities of the post or institution under review. They are usually measures of output such as rates of attendance exam results and per capita costs of a school. They are often used comparatively to make judgements about relative worth but have been criticised for an overly mechanistic  quantitative and limited way of judging educational issues.


usually used in relation to pay where wage or salary is linked to measures of how well one has been judged to have fulfilled one's role or met stated standards or targets. It is controversial in education for several reasons most notably because of the difficulty of measuring teacher effectiveness but also because the collegiate nature of a school makes it difficult to determine the precise contribution of a single individual.


a management system of accountability where judgements and evaluations are made of the performance of an individual or group and their value or worth calculated in terms of the ratings awarded. A complex system of performance indicators appraisal targets and monitoring is often involved. In education it is often criticised as overplaying aspects of business management as opposed to professional issues and concerns. It is also questionable if some of the complex but central aspects of education can be readily translated into easily assessed indicators with the result that it is said that the system ends up valuing what it can measure rather than measuring what it values.


descriptive of a teacher who is not employed in one institution but to teach in a number of establishments travelling round from one to another. It is a common system in the employment of school music instructors for example. The word is also sometimes used of a teacher who teaches in a number of different settings within an institution without having a teaching area 'of their own'.

personal construct

a central concept in the work of George Kelly (1905-1967) referring to the ways in which a person attempts to perceive and understand the physical and social world. Each of these personal constructs acts like a theory which is then adapted in the light of experience.


a complex term from psychology which is resistant to simple definition as it is theory-dependent and contested. Generally the term refers to the predictable and unique ways in which an individual responds to the environment. Some see personality as having a causal role in behaviour whereas others see it as merely a term for that accumulation of behaviours.

Peter principle

the principle that in an organisational hierarchy members are promoted until they reach a level beyond their competence. In education it would refer to those who do well at one level of management and are then further promoted until they reach a level at which they cannot cope. It is named after its originator Laurence Peter (1919-90).


a trend in 20th century philosophy which stresses the importance of human consciousness and its direct experience of the world. It was influential in the development of existentialistideas. Educational research in this tradition would typically tend to focus on individuals' own responses to and understandings of their experience more than on observations or tests of their actions or attitudes.


the general study of the nature of reality reason and morality. The Greek roots of the word mean 'love of wisdom'. The philosophy of education is concerned with studying the purpose of education and exploring its basic concepts.


in the teaching of reading an approach which concentrates on the sounding out of letters including individual sounds within words (see analytic phonics synthetic phonics).

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