20 Key Terms in Education

Every field has its own lingo. Education is one of them. In fact, our lingo is quite dynamic, as we are always finding new strategies to implement. Therefore, I did not put together the typical list of terms you might find in your teacher training program. Here is the updated list of innovation happening in education.

Arts Integration

arts integrationArts integration means learning core content side by side with–and through–art. Art helps students to explain and illustrate their knowledge, really making it their own. It forces a student to understand the subject-matter extremely well, and also fosters divergent thinking.

Character Development

character developmentTying into developing emotional intelligence and the whole child approach to education, character development is a necessity in today’s schools, both implicitly and explicitly. Teaching resolution of conflict and communication skills, modeling the growth mindset and grit, teaching acceptance and empathy, we have a responsibility to our students to develop not just their minds, but their character as well.

Collaborative Learning

collaborative learningMany new learning practices use collaboration, as science recognizes that we come up with our best ideas in groups. Furthermore, it represents real life, where students will eventually have to learn to work with others and their ideas.

Creative Thinking

creative thinkingAs the backbone behind many learning movements, including STEAM and design thinking, creative thinking brings together problem solving, divergent thinking, and convergent thinking. There are now degree programs popping up for creative thinking, as it has become a clearly recognized asset.

Design Thinking

design thinkingThis strategy develops deep thinking skills, promoting problem solving and creativity in a hands-on format. The design thinking process consists of five elements: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. Students are taught to approach problems with a designer’s mindset, reframe problems, and test out things in practice, not theory.

Digital Storytelling

digital storytellingStorytelling for the 21st century, combines multimedia with words to create a new and exciting storytelling experience for students. Digital Storytelling requires the following steps: outline an idea, do the research, write the script, create a storyboard, create or collect images/video/audio, combine to create a digital story, share with the world, get feedback and reflect.

Emotional Intelligence (SEL)

emotional intelligence (SEL)Educating students about how to cope with their emotions, both inside and outside of the classroom, helps them to succeed in life: less dropouts, less detention, less suspensions, and the list continues. Practicing mindfulness in schools is just one element that shows promising results.

Exercise and Movement

exercise and movementWe are not advocating that you teach PE instead of history, unless you are a PE teacher, of course. However, movement and exercise are essential and must be integral parts of the learning day. Giving students short breaks in which they are allowed to get up, move, and be active can actually help them to retain what they’ve just learned.


failureYes, I am suggesting teaching students how to fail. Closely-tied to the growth mindset, design thinking, and inquiry-based learning, teaching students how to fail involves getting students to challenge themselves. In fact, this professor built in failure as a part of final grades. Teaching how to fail further requires that we teach students to respond appropriately to failure, using it as a learning opportunity: Why did that not work? What parts of it worked? Do I need to start from the beginning again, or can I salvage parts of my attempt?

Flipped Classroom

flipped classroomThe Flipped Classroom is a flipping of the traditional classroom model, where what is usually thought of as homework becomes classwork and vice-versa. A collaborative technology-based format allows the teacher to become a guide, rather than a lecturer. The “learning” is done at home, while the activities are done in the classroom. The classroom is the place where students work together to implement what they’ve learned, while the teacher answers any questions that arise.

Growth Mindset

growth mindsetThe growth mindset is borne of strong self-efficacy, which is a belief in one’s ability to grow, learn, and succeed. It deeply intertwines with grit, a mix of passion and perseverance. Coined by Carol Dweck in the bestselling book Mindset, encouraging the growth mindset is a classroom must, as it anticipates success both inside and outside of the classroom.


HumorYes, this made the list. And, no, it is not new to the teaching world. However, what we know about humor in the classroom is fairly new. Tracey Tokuhama Espinosa tells us that “laughter triggers the release of endorphins and enhances oxygenation in the brain, both of which aid in learning.” Also, the release of dopamine, related to happiness, has an impact on memory and learning. Most teachers know it works, as it’s often a favorite tool in our toolbox. Now, we know why.

Intrinsic Motivation

intrinsic motivationAs teachers, we can cultivate intrinsic motivation in our students. As opposed to extrinsic motivation (such as grades), intrinsic motivation happens when we are rewarded internally for our actions. Teachers should ask students “why” they want to learn a subject and guide them to discover that.


makerspacesThe lab within the classroom, a collaborative workspace that is sometimes high tech and sometimes not–coding, 3D modeling, robotics, woodworking, etc.–makerspaces are hands-on workspaces within the classroom. They are designated specifically for experimenting, building, learning, and ultimately, creating.


metacognitionTeaching students how to think about their own process of thinking encourages critical thinking and self-regulation skills. Teaching metacognition in the classroom, in the form of growth journals and reflective exercises, stimulates student motivation and builds independent, lifelong learners.

Positive Education

Positive EducationPositive Education brings positive psychology to the classroom. It emphasizes our strengths and examines what makes us successful and happy. Teaching character and well-being, positive education revives education, as the brain flourishes on happiness and positivity.

Project-Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL)PBL is a collaborative learning method that addresses real-world problems, emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving skills. Starting with a challenging question or issue facing the community, students are given “voice and choice” in how they will solve the problem and evaluate their solution. Hands-on and community involved, PBL joins the next wave of classroom innovation.


scaffoldingThis requires breaking the learning up into manageable chunks with tools to accompany each section of the learning. Scaffolding is the step prior to differentiated instruction and can work in conjunction with it for those who need more help.


STEAMArt and design are making their way back into the curriculum, transforming STEM to STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics. The A in STEAM provides the outlet for the STEM to come to life.

Workshop Model

Workshop ModelThe Workshop Model is a personal favorite of mine. Starting with a warm-up, leading to a mini-lesson, breaking into work time, and then debriefing, The Workshop Model allows for scaffolding and allows students to work on exercises and projects in the classroom, where the teacher can help guide them and answer questions. Then, the debriefing allows for time to reflect and integrate their newly formed knowledge.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching, everybody!


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