25 Buzz words you need to know

important buzz words word cloud

Seriously, you might want to make flash cards. Also check out my Buzz Words for 2022 post for the most recent buzz words in education.

1.Achievement Gap: The Achievement Gap is when two heterogeneous groups consistently achieve at different levels. Generally, that disparity is between racial or ethnic groups as well as socioeconomic.  If you are interviewing in a district with a large achievement gap be ready to answer questions about what you would do about it.  See: differentiation, higher order thinking, scaffolding, learning styles, and rigor.

2. Differentiation: at its most basic, differentiation means creating lessons that are accessible to all the students in your class despite their varied intelligences (kinesthetic, visual, audio) as well as their varied ability levels. This sometimes means giving different students different ways to meet an objective. This is definitely something you want to say you’re good at and will plan into your lessons. Have an example of a differentiated lesson from your student teaching in mind to discuss.

3. Engagement: We are not talking weddings here. Engagement essentially means how tuned in students are to what is happening in the classroom. Students who are daydreaming or on their phones are clearly not engaged. Students who are actively participating in their learning through discussions, movement, or active listening are engaged.

4. Equality vs Equity: Let’s be very clear. Equal ≠ Equitable. Equal means everyone gets the same. Equitable means that each person gets what they need to reach a certain goal and each person’s needs may differ significantly. Angus Maguire, with the Interaction Institute for Social Change, recreated the well used visual example of equity vs. equality seen below.

#equality but I still don’t know” (CC BY 2.0) by  leighblackall 

As you can see, the “equal” boxes do not help each person achieve the goal of seeing the game. On the equity side, each person gets the support they need to reach the goal. So what does this look like in a classroom? Some students may need more support than others (more scaffolding, organizers, one-on-one or small group support).                 

5. Flexible seating: Seating that allows for different groupings to easily form: small group, pairs, large group. Teachers with flexible seating often allow students to choose from a variety of seating options based on how they will be most comfortable learning (individual desk, large group table, standing at a podium, etc.).

6. Graphic Organizer: Graphic Organizers are all the rage.  They are basically handouts that help students organize information visually. A basic example is a Venn diagram, but graphic organizers can get quite complex.  Need a graphic organizer?  Search whatever you need it for + graphic organizer and you’ll get thousands.  For example I just typed “Graphic Organizer +  hero’s journey” into a search engine and got 18,600 results in .43 seconds.

7. Higher order thinking: There are levels of thinking.  You know Bloom’s Taxonomy from Ed. School right? Basic level thinking is simply remembering.  An assessment that requires regurgitating definitions and matching those definitions to words is a lower level thinking assessment.  We want kids to do more than that. Bloom’s taxonomy provides a nice hierarchy of skills.  One level above remembering is understanding.  We hope our kids get at least that far.  And then thinking ultimately moves up to evaluating and creating.  Interviewers want to hear that you are going to create lessons and assessments that require students to use higher order thinking.

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

8. IEP: Individualized Education Program. What this means for you is that a student has been legally determined to have special needs. That might mean that the student needs to sit in the front of the class.  It might mean that the student gets extra time on tests.  It might mean that the student works with a Special Education Teacher for part of the day. Whatever the IEP says (and you get that at the beginning of the year) you’d better do it.  You can get in big trouble if you don’t properly accommodate.  We’re talking you can get sued.

9. Inquiry: Rather than the teacher disseminating the information while students passively absorb it, the inquiry method of teaching is a student centered approach to learning in which the teacher poses (or the students themselves pose) a question related to the content and then explore it through various means.

10. Iterate: To iterate means to say or do something over and over, but the way iterate is generally used in education refers to the act of trying something multiple times, reflecting critically on that experience, and improving instruction based on that reflection.

11. . Learning styles:  This one goes hand-in-hand with differentiation.  Students learn in different ways.  How are you going to disseminate the information in a way that allows students of all different learning styles to both understand the information and be able to show that they understand the information? Brianna Hansen at Cornerstone University does a pretty good job of explaining learning styles in more depth. Also see: Differentiation.

12. Metacognition: Thinking about thinking. The more we ask students to be critical thinkers and inquires the more we need to help them understand how they think. This involves regularly setting and reflecting on individual learning goals.

13. Mindfulness: Paying attention to the given moment. More and more teachers and schools are teaching students mindfulness techniques that can help them deal with stress, as well as improve their performance in school. The Positive Psychology Program has a great article on 31+ Ways of Teaching Mindfulness in Schools. It might be worth a read before your interview.

14. Objective/Learning Target: The goal for our students/what we want them to learn.  In most states, objectives are now based on standardized tests that were required by NCLB.  We’re talking Common Core in most states. With ESSA now in place, standards could be changing on a state-by-state basis, but you need an objective every day for every class.  Students should be aware of the objective for the day and it should be visible somewhere in the room.  I put it on the board.  I used to just have it in my PowerPoints, but there is a big push for a “clear and measurable objective” to be visible in the classroom at all times.

15. Performance based assessment (PBA):  This is a really hot one right now.  Huge bonus points if you use it correctly in your interview. Performance based assessment is sort of a euphemism for a test, but it’s a special kind of test. It is a test that asks students to apply what they know often using a task that reflects a real world skill.  For example, if students just learned about ethos, pathos, and logos they may demonstrate that knowledge by hypothetically becoming a real estate agent, finding a house online, and “selling” it to the class using ethos, pathos, and logos.

Student working on a project with various tools in front of them.

16. Project Based Learning (PBL): Students explore the subject by using the inquiry process to attempt to answer an essential question or come up with a solution to a real-world problem.

17. Rigor: Basically is the work hard enough or are we just giving students busy work? Rigor means that we’re setting high standards and expecting all students to achieve those standards. Rigor means that we’re really making them think.  This goes hand-in-hand with higher order thinking.

18. Scaffolding: When we give a student extra support in order to meet an objective it is called scaffolding.  For example, top students might be able to read the history chapter on their own and take notes, no problem. They don’t require a great deal of scaffolding to complete that task.  Students who are struggling require more help.  They may need you to break down how many pages they should read each night.  They might need graphic organizers to help them take notes.  These things we provide to help them complete the task are called scaffolds.

student filling in a multiple choice test
Hand completing a multiple choice exam.
Link to photo.

19. Standardized Testing: No matter where you are or what you teach (if it is a core subject) your students will take some kind of standardized test in your subject. Those tests determine both the success of the child and your “success” as a teacher.  They are mandated by the Federal Government and implemented by individual States.  Many states are also now basing teacher evaluations in some part on “student academic achievement” (i.e. test scores). No pressure.  ESSA removed the requirement to base any part of teacher evaluations on student’s success on these tests, but don’t be surprised if states and districts keep doing it anyway.

20. Student choice/voice: These two are pretty much self-explanatory, but I wanted to include them to remind you how “buzzy” they are right now. Student choice and voice are all about giving students options in the classroom and allowing them to play a part in determining what those options are.  This may take the form of students choosing (or having some say in) what topics they want to explore, how they want to show their understanding, and how they will be assessed. By listening to students and giving them choice, you will be incorporating student voice into your teaching.

Students working together around a large table
Teachers provide the space (and inspiration) for students to ask the hard questions and do the hard work to figure out how to answer them.

21. Student centered learning/learner centered education: An inquiry based project is an example of student centered learning. A lesson is student centered if the focus is more on the student finding the answers to relevant content related questions, rather than the teacher telling them those answers. In addition to that, a student centered lesson goes the additional step of giving students some choice in what it is they want to explore and how they will show what they have learned through that exploration. This often also involves student setting, assessing, and reflecting on their own learning targets or goals. A student centered classroom requires students to be active participants in their own learning.

22. Tracking/De-tracking: Tracking means that students are put into classes based on their ability (learn more here).  Some schools have as many as four levels (Honors, Advanced, General, and Applied).  The levels serve different student abilities: Above grade level, on grade level, below grade level, and self-contained.  De-tracking is very popular right now.  That means the levels are all put together or “collapsed.”  A large amount of research says this “heterogeneous grouping” is good for the kids.  No doubt a tracked classroom is easier to teach, but with a lot of hard work and differentiation a de-tracked classroom can be successful too. 

23. Transformational learning: Generally, transformational learning refers to moving away from teacher centered classrooms to student centered classrooms. This requires a mindset change for both students, teachers, and the greater school community.

Virginia Beach City Public School’s Profile of a Graduate focuses on 21st Century skills.

24. Twenty-First Century Skills: In my most recent interview, I was asked how I would integrate twenty-first century skills into my classroom. First, you need to know that twenty-first century skills are skills that students will need for tomorrow’s workforce.  Things like being able to write well, collaborate, use technology, and think critically.  As an English teacher, I can say that my students learn all kinds of twenty-first century skills and I can give examples like lessons on how to email a boss, code switching, and writing a persuasive letter.  Think about what skills you will be teaching that would qualify as twenty-first century skills and be able to talk about them in your interview.

25. 504: When someone uses the term 504, they are referring to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act ensures that students with physical disabilities have the same opportunities as other students. A 504 is a legal document similar to an IEP, except 504’s are usually given to students who have physical, rather than intellectual disabilities. A student in a wheel chair may have a 504 that requires the school to provide them with a wheel chair accessible desk. Students who are very heavy may actually have a 504 stating that they need a desk with a non-attached chair. In recent years, I’ve seen more 504’s providing accommodations for students with anxiety and depression. A student with anxiety may have a 504 accommodation that requires the teacher to allow them to step outside into the hallway (or go to the nurse) when they are experiencing high levels of anxiety.

Don’t forget to check out my Buzz Words for 2022 post for the most recent buzz words in education.

If you found this post about education buzz words helpful, check out some of my other posts:

Keeping track of parent contact

Empower: what happens when students own their own learning 

Recommended reading for future/new teachers

I recommend reading Brené Brown

Or Start Here to check out my posts curated by theme.

If you found this post on teaching virtually helpful, make sure to pinpost, and tweet to share it with other new teachers who might also benefit from it!

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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13 Responses

  1. February 26, 2019

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  11. February 18, 2022

    […] buzzwords are constantly changing so it is time for an update of my 2019 25 Buzz words you need to know post. The buzz words below are in addition to the 2019 buzz words so make sure you check out that post […]

  12. March 4, 2022

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  13. August 29, 2022

    […] 25 Buzz words you need to know. by A Teacher’s Guide · February 25, 2019. Seriously, you migh… […]

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