Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Jargon-du-Jour" or Jurassic Jargon?

I guess I'm kind of a practical gal.  I don't care for fancy jargon when there's an easy way to say something, and I particularly don't like the endless string of ever-changing acronyms and "jargon du jour" that has become pervasive in education.  (I don't even much care for the word "pedagogy", but even worse is this version: "pedagogical".  I get tongue-tied every time I try to say it, and then end up making a total fool of myself!)  Maybe I'll invent a new and timely term for how I prefer to talk about education: Jurassic Jargon.  I can call it JurJar, if we need a shortened version.  JurJar will consist of just saying what you mean, without inventing a fancy newfangled label for it.

(Note: this isn't going to be a post that naturally lends itself to images, so for fun I've just selected a few of my old photos to break up the reading a bit for you! They have no significance in relation to the post, except for whatever significance you might want to attach to them! 
When I took my undergraduate college education classes, in the early 70's (yeah, that makes me officially a dinosaur, though I'd prefer to be called a baby-boomer), I really didn't encounter a whole lot of education jargon, other than the phrases "the open classroom" or "schools without walls" (which in the end was a really bad idea and did not work; most of the schools built that way have long since put up walls).  Oh, and there was "sensitivity training", which was a touchy-feely sort of experience that I personally did not care for, but one of my ed professors, in a required class, loved.  It was everyone's favorite class, but not mine.  I was very reserved back then (yes, it's true!) and I hated going to that class, and doing stuff like falling backwards and trusting that I would be caught, and sitting touching backs with a partner and sharing how we felt, and so on.  Ick.

The one really worthwhile bit of 70's terminology I learned is "the stages of artistic development", courtesy of Lowenfeld's Creative and Mental Growth.  I believe that everything I read about and learned in that book still applies today, which is nice, because though our world changes, and we've seen major technology advances, kids are still kids, going through those basic stages, aren't they?  And knowing those stages, and what is developmentally appropriate at certain stages of development, I kind of wonder if some of this "21st Century Jargon" is really necessary.  I know that for me, it causes me to shut down, because I can NEVER remember what any of it means.  It only serves to confuse and befuddle. 

Suppose you want to apply for a grant or need to write a report - well, it seems you've got to have some fancy jargon in order to impress!  Did you know there's actually an Educational Jargon Generator on the internet?  They suggest that you "Amaze your colleagues with finely crafted phrases of educational nonsense!", which describes exactly what I think about much of this jargon. 
On that site, I saw quite a few phrases that I've often heard recent years, that I hadn't previously encountered in my first 25 years or so in the classroom (I taught for 36 years and have been retired for 3).  These included gems such as:  "across the content areas", "differentiated lessons", "critical thinking", "scaffolding", "stake-holders", "cohorts", "performance-based", "flipped classroom", "Big Ideas", "multiple modalities", "brain compatible", "technology infused",  "metacognition", "enduring understandings", "standards-based"...  YIKES.  I just listed 15 of terms and phrases from the site, all of which I somehow survived without (and flourished) for decades!  And there's so many more..........  Do we really need all this pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo to be a good teacher?

I recall the first time I saw the word "exemplar" used on a blog post, a few years ago.  I thought "Huh??"  When did my mock-up stop being my teacher "sample" or "example", and become a fancier word?  And why? What the heck is wrong with an example being an example??  Why does it have to be an exemplar now?  Sheesh!  And when did the word "rubric" arrive in ed jargon? I remember the first professional development program that I attended where the word was used, and I wondered - when did a chart become a rubric??  Who invented a new word, and why?  How did it sneak up behind me?

And in art ed, sometime in the 90's, DBAE (data based art ed, whatever that means) emerged on the scene, sneaking up on me to describe, perhaps, something that maybe I'd sort of been doing all along.  And now of courses there's TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior), choice-based art ed, PLN's or PLC's, VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies; which I recently discovered I have been doing for many years without the label), and there's Design Thinking.

There's Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings.  There are Model Cornerstone Assessments and Anchor Standards.  And performance indicators and learning outcomes, and  value-added, and best practices.

And what the heck is constructivism?

There's formative assessments and summative assessments, and performance based assessments, and data based assessments, and authentic assessments.  And benchmarks.  And metacognition.  And curriculum maps, and vertically aligned curriculum. If you think for even a minute that I can remember what all of these terms mean, you would be wrong. 

And the silly names for things that we teachers always did, but that never had names before: for example, there's think/pair/share, and exit tickets, and bell-ringer activities (when I hear this term, I must admit that I picture Quasimodo). And there are names for the obvious: differentiated instruction and high stakes testing, for example.  Duh.

And here's a few acronyms you might have encountered in recent years: SLO (student learning objectives), SWK (no, not sealed with a kiss; it is "students will know"), KWL (know, want to know, learned; at least I think that's what it stands for).  There's AYP (annual yearly progress), RTI (response to intervention), and ELL (English language learners; when did this label change from ESL - English as a second language?  And why?)

I could keep going, and fill a few more paragraphs with terms, phrases, and acronyms from just the past few years, but I have a feeling that you probably all stopped reading several paragraphs ago because this is just so dreadful....
While writing this post, I came across an article that you might like, called "The Joys of Educational Jargon". I'll end this post with that link for your reading pleasure, and with some open-ended questions for you, below.
  • Does anyone else feel as frustrated as I do with the proliferation of jargon? 
  •  Does the jargon change the way you do things, or just give new names to what you already do?  
  • Can you remember what all these things even mean and easily incorporate the words in your conversation?
  • Does the jargon-du-jour improve your teaching? 
  • Or are you like me and your brain starts to cloud and fog when the jargon deluge arrives? (Perhaps we can call it the jargon-pocalypse?)  
  • And finally, can you comment and tell me all the acronyms and terminology that I might have missed in this post?

18 comments:

  1. I totally agree with everything you've written, Phyl. But that's because I went through college the same time you did. For the last couple of years, as this acronym Avalanche has been creeping in, I have tried to hide under the radar, so to speak, as I knew my retirement was approaching. I have one year left so I think I can skate on through without being caught up in the alphabet game. I am a good, no, really good art teacher, and my students have learned everything they need to move on to middle school to be successful in art. They never heard any of that terminology from me and are probably better for it. I know there will be tons of comments about why you and I are dinosaurs and it doesn't bother me one bit. The detractors will spend more time spouting the need for the alphabet game than they will teaching art and enjoying their students artwork.

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    1. Well said, Pat! Dinosaurs are real popular this summer, anyhow!

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  2. I soooooo totally agree with you! But I also went to school in the '70's. It's a bit overwhelming and I do need to use some of it to get by. Your post nails exactly how I feel about it!

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  3. Ha!! I am still laughing! The Educational Jargon Generator is a classic -- LOVE it. This would have been perfect to have around during my classroom days for when we had to write documents for the state!!!!! You know it is time to retire when the jargon starts recycling and new useless acronyms are created to replace old useless acronyms!!

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    1. And if that isn't enough, look at this definition of jargon from the Urban Dictionary: "Speech or writing having unusual or pretentious vocabulary, convoluted phrasing, and vague meaning." That says it all, doesn't it?

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  4. I remember sitting at a table, across from my daughter's kinder teacher during our first parent-teacher conference. The sweet, lovely and very well-educated teacher proceeded to tell me about my daughter's syntax and inflections and prefixes. I just wanted to know if she was happy and making friends.
    You need to speak to your audience.
    If your audience is educators, then academic jargon make communication clearer. But if your audience isn't, well, you said it best, Phyl!
    I'm so much like you, Phyl. Academic jargon doesn't tell me what I need to know or how to teach. I prefer the direct approach.
    Great article, my friend!

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    1. Thanks, Patty! You've made a good point about speaking to your audience. I always say, all the fancy pedagogical jargon in the world doesn't help me know what to do the first time a student pees their pants, or throws up, or bursts into tears over a paint drip, or the day that there are wasps flying around the room with kids screaming "I'm allergic!", or when the sink overflows, and so on. Sometimes we need to rely on practical know-how and common sense!

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  5. Agree 100% - the only reason these new terms come into play is so someone can sell a book. Seriously. It is crazy how much money a school system will spend just because someone thought up a new acronym for the same old thing. I graduated in the early 90's, btw :)

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    1. Good point. It's all about the money.... Sigh...

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  6. As someone who graduated in '09, I'm here to say it isn't you! All these terms and acronyms are exhausting. PLC's, SGO's, PDP's, GCN training sessions- the only thing worse than being held accountable for all of them is trying to explain them to anyone who isn't currently involved in the teaching world. You end up sounding like a nutjob. I've been pretty patient with all of it until recently. For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was when our newest, highest administrator started rolling out the red carpet for his new "Strategic Plan." After multiple meetings about this "Strategic Plan" I still have no clue what actually involves, or who is in charge of it, or what it even means. Isn't a "Strategic Plan" the same as saying "Plan Plan"? Is it me?? Thank goodness it's summer!

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    1. I too just recently read the dictionary definition of rigor, you would think the powers would read the definition before using it!

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    2. Yes, everyone has readily jumped on the bandwagon for rigor being a good thing. The definition certainly will make you reconsider that!

      And yes, the term 'strategic plan' is just another bit of crazy, for sure!

      And GCN... What does THAT mean? I'm not familiar. I keep coming back to the vitamin store GNC, but that's not it, so hmmm GCN... Generally Certifiably Nuts, perhaps? Or maybe it means Going Crazy Now? Or Grandiose Curriculum Nonsense?

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    3. So glad you mentioned Rigor. That was the one I was thinking of as well. The definition and the way it is used...polar opposites.

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  7. Love the "Educational Jargon Generator"!!! Now I need one that takes all that "educational jargon" and turns it into understandable english for me!!! All these terms haunt my nightmares during the school year! Sadly, I can tell you what just about all of them mean... We received an e-mail this spring that was supposed to help explain how to put together evidence for one of the domains we needed to write up for our summative review. After reading the first few sentences all I kept thinking was, " What the $%#*?!" I had to google some of the said "educational jargon" just to get a basic grip on what %$## they were talking about! When I asked a group of very seasoned teachers at school if it was just me, they said no, they had to google some of the terms also! All of these terms give me a massive headache. Don't even get me started on having to re-write our Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings during a curriculum revision this Spring! We all kept saying to the curriculum directors," Can you please explain that in english?!" I have made sure to use much of this "educational lingo" when writing up lessons, self-assessments, documents for administrators, SGO's, PDP's, etc... because when administration sees it, they love it...lol... ( I don't think they understand it either, I have yet to find but one or two administrators that can effectively explain it to the masses)

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    1. Just reading words like 'domains' and 'summative' review are making me crazy when I read your comment! And I cannot STAND the phrases Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings. I wonder how much someone got paid to think them up? Utter nonsense, if you ask me.

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  8. Oh Phyl, what a brilliant blog post. I agree with you and all the comments wholeheartedly. And all this jargon is generated as the high flyers in our respective education departments gain promotions on the back of inventing even more crappy jargon to impress their bosses! UGH! We are currently drowning in Learning Intentions and Success Criteria and have to have them on our boards and in our planning documents and work programs whether they are truly working for us as specialist teachers, rather than classroom teachers, or not.
    The Phys Ed guys at my school suggested that they could tape the LI and SC to their foreheads or make up headbands to attach them to as they run around with the students outside as they don't even have a board to put them on!!!!

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    1. Wow. It's both scary and refreshing to know that this crazy jargon nonsense is not only our problem here in the US, but elsewhere in the world. We have EQ's and EU's, and you have LI's and SC's, but somehow it is all just the same, isn't it???

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