Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition

a method of treatment for various mental disorders. It was originally associated with Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).


the science of the nature functions and phenomena of mental activity.


the measurement of mental ability. It has been highly controversial because of its involvement in IQ issues and selection (often on dubious grounds).


a term for the physical and muscular functioning of a human or referring to the coordination of thinking and physical movement.

public pedagogy

this term refers generally to learning that occurs beyond formal schooling. In recent times, it has been used to indicate the learning that occurs through disparate means such as events, popular culture, technology, informal and public places. It can also be used to refer to dominant ideology and how it can promote a particular view of things though its various means of influence: media, politics, work practices, business discourse, etc.

public school

the misleading term used in England for a fee-paying private school.

public sector

the term for all activity organisations and institutions which are run and funded by national or local government. This includes such aspects as the state health service the education system social services and defence (see private sector).


any person taught by another. It has gone out of favour because of its connotations of inferiority and passivity. The term student has become more popular but seems inappropriate for the very young.

pupil-teacher ratio

the number of pupils in an institution divided by the number of teaching staff. A ratio of 30:1 would mean that for every 30 pupils there was one teacher. There have been recent moves to have this reduce significantly but academic opinion is divided on its merits and political opinion baulks at the increased costs involved. Many private schools market themselves on the basis of a low pupil-teacher ration the implication being that personal attention and support for each individual pupil will be greater than would be the case in larger-sized classes.

pure research

systematic study and investigation undertaken to enhance knowledge and understanding but not specifically for any practical purpose (see action research applied research).

Pygmalion effect

a term used for the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy whereby teacher expectations hugely influence student outcomes: learners are seen to achieve in line with what teachers expect them to achieve. The term derives from the play by George Bernard Shaw where a flower girl is trained so she can be passed off as a Duchess.

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