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Glossary of Terms and Abreviations


APT- Advanced Professional Term: The final field experience for Education students at the University of Alberta.
ELL- English Language Learners: Language learners who are learning English in addition to their native language.
ESL- English as a Second Language: The use or study of English by speakers with a native language other than English.
IPT- Introductory Professional Term: The first field experience for Education students at the University of Alberta.
L1- First Language: The mother tongue or native language of a person.
MT- Mentor Teacher: A teacher who mentors or coordinates a student teacher.
SLA- Second Language Acquisition: The process by which people learn a second language in addition to their native language(s).
SL- Second Language: The second language of a student.
TBLT- Task-based language teaching: A method of instruction in the field of language acquisition.
TL- Target Language: The language being learned in the classroom.


Assessment for/of learning: Assessment for learning is an ongoing process; students are evaluated in terms of what they are working on and the progress they are making- assessment of the process students go through. Assessment of learning is done at an end point (end of a chapter, unit, semester, year) and is used to collect evidence of what a student has learned to do-assessment of a product.

Attention: This term refers to what a person uses to take in the information around them. The more attention is paid, the more is taken in, and vice versa.

Automaticity: The term automaticity refers to the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low level details required. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.  For instance, when riding a bicycle we do not have to concentrate on turning the pedals, balancing, and holding on to the handlebars but instead those processes are automatic and we can concentrate on watching the road and traffic around us.

BICS/CALP: These terms refer to two levels of language development as defined by Jim Cummins (1984).  BICS stands for “Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills” and refers to the development of conversational fluency that often involves non-verbal support to promote understanding and communication. CALP stands for “Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency” and refers to the development of decontextualized language used in more academic situations.

Cognitive Capacity: The total amount of information the brain is capable of retaining at any particular moment. This amount is finite; one’s total capacity is only ever 100%.

Cognitive Load: How much of one’s cognitive capacity is being used towards a particular task at any given time.

Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP):  The term CUP is a part of Cummins’ Interdependence Hypothesis. The Interdependence (or iceberg) Hypothesis reveals the relationship of the first language to the learning of another language. Two languages might appear to be two very different phenomena on or above the surface, but there is a part below the surface that is actually interdependent psychologically. This common area between languages is the Common Underlying Proficiency.

Communicative competency: One’s fluency (communicative) and accuracy (competency) in a given language; essentially, their comfort using the language. A Foreign Language student may be comfortable speaking only in the classroom for a long time before being comfortable enough to challenge their fluency in another context.

Conscientization: The term “conscientization” is the process of one becoming aware and acting on that awareness. It is a combination of the three words “Conscious+Conscience+Conscientious”. Firstly, one is conscious meaning one knows what is occurring in one’s environment. Secondly one has a conscience, a moral compass that compels one to act. Thirdly, one is conscientious, meaning one feels a responsibility to act upon one’s conscience. Conscientization, therefore, is the process of become aware of one’s surroundings, getting an idea of whether the surroundings are as they should be, and then acting upon those surroundings in the appropriate way.

Deductive Teaching: Students are presented with a concept and work through a variety of examples to learn how that concept functions.

Differentiation: Adapting instruction, activities and tasks to meet students’ specific needs.

Display question: A display question is one where the person asking the question knows the answer to the question.

FL vs. SL: Foreign Language vs. Second Language. Foreign Language refers to a language that is learned while being immersed in a region that speaks that language; learners encounter and must communicate in the foreign language all of the time. Second Language refers to a language that is learned in a classroom setting; the only exposure the student gets to the language is in the class.

Granularity: The term “granularity” means working for or towards clarity. At the most foundational level, granularity = grain + clarity. In order to fully understand what this word means and all that it encompasses, it is perhaps best to think about it in terms of the following visual metaphor:
Picture granularity as the difference between a mountain, boulders, rocks and pebbles. It starts as the difference between being acquainted with a mountain, something you fell far removed from but have some slight knowledge about, and being acquainted with boulders, which are parts of the mountain and much smaller. After the boulders, we look at the rocks, which are smaller still, and move towards pebbles and then grains of sand.
When we talk about being more “granular”, we are looking at getting as close to grains of sand as we can with our descriptions.

Inductive Teaching: Students are presented with a variety of examples relating to a specific topic. Through observation and analysis, students are expected to determine what the “rule” is for the concept, based on the examples they are given.

Meaning: This term refers to the significance of an item, whether it be a concept, a new word or comprehensible input. To have meaning, it must connect with something in a person, in other words, have significance.

Multidimensionality: This term refers to the numerous dimensions a teacher must be aware of at one time. It has been said that teachers make up to 200 decisions a minute; you can imagine all that is going one at once. Teacher must be acting and talking at once, while thinking of what is to come next and watching the class to assess their reaction; this is the “multidimensionality” of teaching. 

Noticing: The term noticing refers the process of students becoming aware of something in particular on their own; this is very important in the inductive approach where, for example, noticing can be used to teach a grammar concept when students are given the examples, and they come to understand the rule by noticing what those examples have in common.

Outsider/Insider: This term refers to the identity that a student gives himself. A student who feels like a part of the class would be an insider; his experience would be a more positive one. Teachers must work to make the students who feel like outsiders feel like they are a part of the class and therefore insiders.

Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK): This term refers to a particular area of knowledge that teachers bring to the class. Teachers are trained in two areas: subject knowledge and pedagogic knowledge. Subject knowledge refers to knowledge of what the teacher is responsible to teach, ie. Spanish or History. Pedagogic Knowledge refers to the knowledge gained from the pedagogic classes at university, such as classroom management, educational psychology, assessment, inclusion, etc. Where those two areas of knowledge overlap is pedagogic content knowledge; teachers every day must be able to manage their classes in the most effective way while still teaching their subject matter.

Perturbation: The term “perturbation” comes from the word perturbed, which means to disturb, disquiet or to throw into disorder. A “perturbation” is something that makes you uncomfortable and forces you to examine your ideas and maybe even change your mind; it also has an emotional dimension attached to it, maybe even with a physiological response, so strong can be the reaction.

Referential question:  A referential question is one where the person asking the question does not know the answer; the type of question is very important in Info Gap activities.

Repertoire: Strategies, activities, tasks, and ideas that a teacher has used before, is very familiar with, knows it is successful and can feel confident going to at any time (i.e. last minute).

Saturation: When a person has been exposed to a substantial amount of information that requires a lot of attention and focus, they may reach a point when they are no longer able to accept any more information; they are no longer able to concentrate and focus their attention on what they are reading/hearing.

Scaffolding: Scaffolding is the teaching technique that involves providing students with supports needed to complete a task or facilitate learning of new concepts. As the students develop and their abilities in a particular area increase, the supports related to that area can be gradually removed. Tasks and activities can be broken down into achievable chunks for the students and they are able to gain confidence in their abilities without putting too much stress or anxiety.

TL: Target Language; this refers to the second language that is being learned.

Triangulation: The term triangulation refers to the process by which a teacher collects evidence about student learning; this evidence is collected from three different sources. These sources are conversations, observations, and products.


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Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011