Curriculum and Instruction - Terminology
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“The process of linking content and performance standards to assessment, instruction, and learning in classrooms. One typical alignment strategy is the step-by-step development of (a) content standards, (b) performance standards, (c) assessments, and (d) instruction for classroom learning. The crucial question is whether classroom teaching and learning activities support the standards and assessments. System alignment also includes the link between other school, district, and state resources. Alignment supports the goals of the standards, i.e., whether professional development priorities and instructional materials are linked to what is necessary to achieve the standards.”
Alternative Assessment“Alternative to traditional, standardized, norm or criterion-referenced, paper-and-pencil testing. An alternative assessment might require students to answer an open-ended question, work out a solution to a problem, perform a demonstration of a skill or produce a project.”
Articulation"The interrelationship and continuity of contents, curriculum, instruction, and evaluation within programs which focus on the progress of the student in learning both to comprehend and communicate in a second language" (Lange, 1988).
A process of reasoning from evidence.
Authentic Assessment
Performance assessments that ask students to do real-life tasks such as analyzing case studies with real data, conducting real laboratory experiments, completing real working internships. Performance assessments have two components: the assignment that tells students what is expected of them and a scoring guide or rubric to evaluate their observed behavior or completed work. Authentic assessment merges learning and assessment (Suskie, 2009).
Bell-to-Bell Instruction“Maximizing instructional time during the day. Students are actively engaged in learning from bell to bell. Instructional time is not lost due to transitions or unfocused class time.”
Benchmark“Tactical description of the knowledge and skills students should acquire within each grade level range. A benchmark usually identifies an element of a standard and describes more distinct, usually developmental, components of the general subject area identified by the standard.”
Best First Instruction (First, Classroom, Tier I, Core, Universal, or Universal Tier Instruction)“High-quality, effective, and engaging instruction provided in the general education classroom as outlined in a class or course curriculum, designed to meet the needs of all students. It provides students with their first opportunity to learn standards and grade-level expectations.”
Big Ideas“A declarative statement that describes a concept or concepts that transcend grade levels in the content area.”

“Ideas that are important and enduring. Transferable beyond the scope of a particular unit. Meaningful patterns that enable one to connect the dots of otherwise fragmented knowledge.”
CRESST (National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing) Glossary

Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design.
Check for Understanding“In Check for Understanding the teacher uses a variety of questioning strategies to see if the students “get it,” and to pace the lesson- move forward/move backwards.”

“An “in-the-moment” approach to formative assessment. It is a powerful method to check for student misconceptions during instruction and is a tool teachers can use to improve instruction and/or provide students immediate feedback regarding their learning” (Fisher and Frey, 2007).
Checklists“Tools that state specific criteria and allow teachers and students to gather information and to make judgements about what students know and can do in relation to the outcomes. They offer systematic ways of collecting data about specific behaviors, knowledge and skills.”
Cognitive complexity
“The level of understanding that supports viewing an issue or problem from multiple and competing perspectives.”

“Depth of Knowledge (DOK) model employed to analyze the cognitive expectation demanded by standards, curricular activities and assessment tasks” (Webb, 1997). Curricular elements may all be categorized based upon the cognitive demands required to produce an acceptable response. Each grouping of tasks reflects a different level of cognitive expectation, or depth of knowledge, required to complete the task. “
Cognitive Engagement“A psychological state in which students put in a lot of effort to truly understand a topic and in which students persist studying over a long period of time.”Rotgans, J. I., & Schmidt, H. G. (2011). Cognitive engagement in the problem-based learning classroom. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 16(4), 465–479.
Cognitive Rigor
The concept "is marked and measured by the depth and extent students are challenged and engaged to demonstrate and communicate their knowledge and thinking" and also "marks and measures the depth and complexity of student learning experiences."
Common Assessments“Assessments typically created by a team of teachers responsible for the same grade level or course. Common assessments allow teachers to collaborate regarding essential benchmarks and thus create a clear focus for teachers to ensure all students, regardless of their teacher, are provided with instruction in a common core curriculum.”
Cooperative Group Learning“A teaching method in which students work together to solve problems by using skills and content to complete an assignment. Each student has a specific responsibility within the group and the teacher acts as a facilitator of learning. Students complete assignments together and receive a common grade.”
Critical Thinking“Application of thinking skills more complicated than simple recall. Critical thinking involves thinking skillfully about causal explanation, prediction, generalization, reasoning by analogy, conditional reasoning, and the reliability of sources of information and then applying them in evaluative ways.”
Curriculum“A particular course to be run, given a desired end point. A curriculum is more than a traditional program guide, therefore; beyond mapping out the topics and materials, it specifies the most appropriate experiences, assignments, and assessments that might be used for achieving goals.”Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design.
Curriculum Maps
“A matrix that connects goals or objectives to any courses within a particular discipline that allow for achievement of the goals/objectives; it is an auditing tool that helps identify potential gaps in the curriculum.”

“curriculum mapping is a process for recording what content and skills are actually taught in a classroom, school, or district during a longer period of time. The data provide an overview, rather than a daily classroom perspective, of what is actually happening over the course of the school year (Jacobs, 1997a). Curriculum mapping can serve as both an instrument and a procedure for determining what the curriculum is and monitoring the planned curriculum” (O'Malley, 1982).
( & Cross, 1993)
Curriculum Objective (also referred to as Learning objective, Learning target, Learning expectations)“A very specific grade level or course-learning outcome aligned to standards and benchmarks. Objectives are generally identified at the district level and usually communicated through district curriculum documents. They describe what students should know, understand or be able to do at the end of a course, unit, or even a lesson.”
Demanding Curriculum
Curriculum that is demanding means. . .the work is often a bit beyond the reach of each learner; Student growth is non negotiable expectation; Standards for work and behavior are high; Students are guided in working and thinking like professionals; and there is no "loose" time.
Descriptive Feedback“Indicates what students can currently do and what they need to do in order to achieve a target curriculum aim or master an en route building block related to that aim.”Popham, J. (2008). Transformative Assessment.
Developmentally, culturally and linguistically appropriate“Age appropriateness is based on human development research which indicates that there are universal, predictable sequences of growth and change that occur in children during the first nine years of life. These predictable changes occur in all domains of development - physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. Knowledge of typical development of children within the age span provides a framework from which teachers prepare the learning environment and plan appropriate experiences.”
“Cultural appropriateness recognizes the importance of the knowledge of the social and cultural contexts in which children live to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for the children and their families.”

“Culturally- and linguistically-appropriate means that the materials are appropriate for the intended audience, do not promote biased or stereotypical perceptions of individuals or groups, and are in a language that families can read and understand.”

Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching in which educators actively plan for students' differences so that all students can best learn. In a differentiated classroom, teachers divide their time, resources, and efforts to effectively teach students who have various backgrounds, readiness and skill levels, and interests.
Disciplined Inquiry“Refers to a method of inquiry where we make a conscious effort to observe and form conclusions about phenomena with as little error as possible, or by documenting various sources of error.”
Effective Questioning“Research finds that teacher questions (and cues) are effective when they focus on what is important, require students to respond at higher levels, provide adequate wait time after a question is asked and establish an engaging introduction for the lesson. Effective questioning can also play a role in focusing students on unit learning goals or overarching themes throughout a longer period of study.”
Essential Learning (or Essential benchmark concept, Essential outcomes)“Critical knowledge or skills every student is expected to acquire at a proficient level as a result of each course, grade level or unit of instruction. Essential benchmarks are identified at the district level and are less in number than the total number of benchmarks identified under a standard for a grade level or course.”
Essential Understandings (or Enduring Understandings)“The specific inferences, based on big ideas, that have lasting value beyond the classroom.”Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design.
Exemplars“Key examples of products or processes chosen so as to be typical of designated levels of quality or competence.”D. Royce Sadler (2005) Interpretations of criteria‐based assessment and grading in higher education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30:2, 175-194
Flow“A state of optimal experience characterized by total absorption in the task at hand; a merging of action and awareness in which the individual loses track of both time and self.”
Formal Assessment
Formal assessment usually implies a written document, such as a test, quiz, or paper. A formal assessment is given a numerical score or grade based on student performance,
Formative Assessment“Planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence is used by teachers to inform instructional decisions and by both students and teachers to support learning, provide feedback and make adjustments.”CRESST (National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing)
Grade Level Expectations“The articulation (at each grade level) of the concepts and skills that indicate a student is making progress toward being ready for high school, i.e., what students need to know from preschool through grade 8.” in the Colorado Academic Standards
High-Quality Assessment“Allows for valid inferences about student knowledge and skills. Components to check for: 1)Validity: Measures what is purported; 2)Reliability: Test scores are precise; 3)Alignment: Test content adequately covers domain in its depth and breadth; 4)Fairness: Success on test depends on the fairness . High quality assessments also support instruction by: communicating expectation, providing timely and informative score reports.”Carr, P. (2016). What Makes High-Quality Assessment. National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from:
Higher Level Thinking
“Taking thinking to higher levels than restating the facts. Higher level thinking requires that we do something with the facts. We must understand them, infer from them, connect them to each other, categorize them, manipulate them, put them together in new or novel ways, and apply them as we seek new solutions to new problems.
Higher level thinking includes concept formation, concept connection, getting the big picture, visualization, problem solving, questioning, idea generation, analytical (critical) thinking, practical thinking/application, and synthesizing/creative thinking. It includes being able to construct similes, metaphors and analogies that represent concepts.
Horizontal Articulation/Alignment
The scope and integration of curricular contents from different knowledge domains within a particular grade level.

“Horizontal alignment occurs as teachers work in grade-level groups to map the content of the taught curriculum and identify the standards they are addressing in each instructional segment or unit. “
Important Curriculum
Curriculum that is important. . . Is essential to the structure of the discipline; Provides a roadmap toward expertise in a discipline;
Is essential to building student understanding; and Balances, knowledge, understanding, and skill.
Informal Assessment
An informal assessment usually occurs in a more casual manner and may include observation, inventories, checklists, rating scales, rubrics, performance and portfolio assessments, participation, peer and self-evaluation, and discussion.
Instructional Planning“The practice of creating instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing. The process consists broadly of determining the state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some ‘intervention’ to assist in the transition. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically measured or completely hidden and assumed.”
Interdisciplinary Learning“Students demonstrate interdisciplinary understanding when they bring together concepts, methods, or forms of communication from two or more disciplines or established areas of expertise so that they can explain a phenomenon, solve a problem, create a product, or raise a new question in ways that would have been unlikely through a single discipline.”
Interest-Based Learning“Uses children’s interests as the basis for curriculum decision-making, which ensures that teaching responds to children’s strengths, abilities and interests, leading to engagement in learning. Interest-based learning can be delivered online and through small group instruction. Students move at their own pace and are prepared to adapt to a variety of delivery methods used in college and the workplace. Technology is used to support real time connections to foster collaboration and relationship building.”
Interim Assessment“A form of assessment that educators use to (1) evaluate where students are in their learning progress and (2) determine whether they are on track to performing well on future assessments, such as standardized tests or end-of-course exams. Interim assessments are usually administered periodically during a course or school year (for example, every six or eight weeks) and separately from the process of instructing students.”
Learning Expectations (Learning Standards)“Concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. Learning standards describe educational objectives—i.e., what students should have learned by the end of a course, grade level, or grade span—but they do not describe any particular teaching practice, curriculum, or assessment method.”
Learning Targets“A statement of intended learning. A description of what students will know understand or be able to do at the end of a lesson.”CRESST (National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing)
Mastery Learning“Mastery of learning approach allows for assessment of a student’s learning pre and post a lesson to determine the length, extent, depth required and what educational interventions would be helpful to assist the student in learning. Learning objectives are developed based on the outcome of a pre‐assessment of student knowledge. Instruction, based on the learning objectives, focuses on specific behaviors a student needs to demonstrate in order to achieve competence.”Gervais, J. (2016). The operational definition of competency-based education. The Journal of Competency-Based Education, 1(2) DOI:
Meta-cognition“Self-knowledge about how we think and why, and the relation between our preferred methods of learning and our understanding (or lack of it).”Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design.
Misconceptions“Student’s pre-instructional knowledge on a topic that might be erroneous, illogical or misinformed.”
Multiple sources of data“Most commonly defined as factual information, often in the form of facts and figures obtained through some type of observation, performance or survey. The most common types of data used in education are (a) student learning, e.g., results of assessments, teacher observations, student work; (b) demographics, e.g., enrollment, attendance, drop-out rate, ethnicity, race, gender, grade level and the behavioral characteristics of the student population (attendance, discipline, graduation rates, etc.); (c) school processes, e.g., descriptions of school programs and processes; and (d) perceptions, e.g., information collected about perceptions of learning environment, values and beliefs, attitudes or observations (Bernhardt, 1998).”
Pacing Guides“Guide that identifies periods of time or timelines that benchmark concepts and skills should be taught and learned. Often pacing guides are included in curriculum guides or documents.”
Performance Assessment“Assessment that requires students to construct a response, create a product or demonstrate their learning through various performance tasks generally evaluated using a scoring guide or rubric.”
Performance Expectations (or performance description)“Level or description of performance expected of a student within a given period of time such as at the end of a course, unit of study or lesson. A performance description usually describes how well students need to perform in various skills and knowledge to be considered proficient at their grade level.”
Performance Standard“Level of performance that a student must reach to demonstrate they have met (learned) the content standards or benchmarks.”
Prior Knowledge“Pre-existing knowledge, skills, beliefs, and attitudes, which influence how learners attend, interpret and organize in-coming information.”
Problem Solving Skills“The steps that one would use to find the problem(s) that are in the way to getting to one's own goal. Some would refer to this as the "problem-solving cycle" (Bransford & Stein, 1993). In this cycle one will recognize the problem, define the problem, develop a strategy to fix the problem, organize the knowledge of the problem cycle, figure out the resources at the user's disposal, monitor one's progress, and evaluate the solution for accuracy.”
Problem-Based Learning“A student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject in the context of complex, multifaceted, and realistic problems designed to help students develop flexible knowledge, effective problem solving skills, self-directed learning, effective collaboration skills, and intrinsic motivation.”
Reciprocal Teaching“An instructional activity that takes place in the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text. The dialogue is structured by the use of four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting. The teacher and students take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading this dialogue.”
Rubric“A coherent set of criteria for evaluating students’ work that includes descriptions of different levels of performance quality on the criteria.”CRESST (National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing)
Scaffold“The provision of sufficient supports (e.g., learning strategies, guidance, resources) to promote learning. The “scaffolds” selected by the teacher are intended to help the student move to higher levels of achievement and transfer the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student, thereby fostering independence.”
SPED, ELL, GT servicesSpecial Education: “Special instruction provided for students with educational or physical disabilities, tailored to each student's needs and learning style.”

“English Language Learner: Students whose first language is a language other than English or is a variety of English that is significantly different from the language of instruction. ELLs may require focused educational supports to assist them in attaining proficiency in English.”

“Gifted and Talented: students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”
Student Outcomes“The knowledge, skills, or behaviors that a program’s students should be able to demonstrate upon program completion. What is the ideal portrait of the successful graduate of your program?”
Student-Friendly LanguageLanguage that “takes into account appropriate developmental stages of the students. One way that teachers can ensure that their language objectives are measurable and student-friendly is by using appropriate verbs. Teachers of young students (e.g., PK or K) may even want to consider further adapting the objectives. For example, we have seen kindergarten teachers use symbols such as a pencil to symbolize "write" and a mouth to symbolize "talk" when they post their objectives for the children to see. We have also seen teachers of young learners rely on pictures to show the key terms they want the students to use or to convey the topic of the lesson (e.g., a picture of a ruler and of hands to discuss standard and non-standard measurement).”
Think-Alouds“The conscious disclosure of thought processes while reading, an effective technique in helping readers acquire a variety of metacognitive comprehension strategies such as evaluating understanding, predicting and verifying, and self questioning before, during, and after reading.”
Transfer of Learning“Transferring one's knowledge and skills from one problem-solving situation to another.”
Vertical Articulation
Organization of contents according to the sequence and continuity of learning within a given knowledge domain or subject over time
Whole, small and individual instructional models
“Whole-class instruction is often used to introduce new materials and strategies to the entire class. Working with the whole class to introduce new concepts can build common experiences and provide a shared basis for further exploration, problem solving, and skill development. Whole-class instruction also can help identify students' prior knowledge and experiences that will affect new knowledge acquisition.”
“Small-group instruction is familiar to most teachers; it is an often-used strategy. Small groups can provide opportunities for working with students who have common needs, such as reinforcement or enrichment.”
“Students Working Alone in Teacher-Directed Activities: Although learning to work cooperatively constitutes an important educational goal, students must also learn to work independently. Individual responses may prove especially helpful for students in refining their own thoughts. For example, after sharing strategies in small, student-led groups, each student might reflect on the group's problem-solving methods and formulate a personal problem-solving strategy.
Written vs. Implemented curriculum“Written curriculum is found in the documents produced by the state, the school system, the school, and the classroom teacher, specifying what is to be taught.”

Implemented Curriculum: “how the intended curriculum is translated into practice and actually delivered.”
Zone of proximal development"The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers."Vygotsky