Jargon De-Coded


When we say student-centered learning, we mean all of the concepts articulated below, integrated to meet the unique needs of each student.

We work to help educators understand what applying these concepts means in their classrooms and daily work, moving from philosophy to practice.  In practice, it does not need to be nearly as complicated as it sounds.


Table of Contents


Blended Learning

A formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.  Source:  Clayton Christensen Institute

Competency-based Learning

A learning model where students advance upon mastery. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.  Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.  Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.  Source:  CompetencyWork

Data-Driven Instruction

The term data-driven instruction refers to a teacher’s use of the results from various student assessments to plan instruction. Several requirements are necessary to achieve good data-driven instruction: Baseline data that gives a good sense of where students are at the beginning of the year. Clear goals for what students are expected to learn and to achieve. Regular assessments across the school year; frequent assessments provide multiple pieces of evidence about student knowledge and skills. Such assessments help to benchmark students’ progress across the school year. Well-focused and well-planned instruction that is based on evidence; these data show what students know and are able to do and what they still need to learn. Source: McGraw Hill

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation means giving students multiple options for taking in information. Differentiating instruction means that you observe and understand the differences and similarities among students and use this information to plan instruction. Specifically, teachers continually assess to identify students’ strengths and areas of need so they can meet students where they are and help them move forward.  The students we teach have diverse levels of expertise and experience with reading, writing, thinking, problem solving, and speaking. Ongoing assessments enable teachers to develop differentiated lessons that meet every students’ needs.  Students collaborate in pairs and small groups whose membership changes as needed. Learning in groups enables students to engage in meaningful discussions and to observe and learn from one another.  The focus in classrooms that differentiate instruction is on issues and concepts rather than “the book” or the chapter. This encourages all students to explore big ideas and expand their understanding of key concepts.  Teachers offer students choice in their reading and writing experiences and in the tasks and projects they complete. By negotiating with students, teachers can create motivating assignments that meet students’ diverse needs and varied interests. Source:  Scholastic

Personalized Learning

A model of learning that includes competency-based progression, flexible learning environments, personalized learning paths, and learning profiles.  Specifically, learning where each student’s progress toward clearly defined goals is continually assessed.  A student advances and earns credit as soon as he/she demonstrates mastery.  Learning where student needs drive the design of the learning environment. All operational elements—staffing plans, space utilization and time allocation—respond and adapt to support students in achieving their goals.  Learning where all students are held to clear, high expectations, but each student follows a customized path that responds and adapts based on his/her individual learning progress, motivations, and goals.  And learning where each student has an up-to-date record of his/her individual strengths, needs, motivations, and goals.  Source:  EducationWeek

Project-based Learning

A teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. Specifically, the project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management. The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.  Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.  The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.  Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.  Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.  Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.  Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom. Source: Buck Institute for Education

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes. Source: Malcolm Knowles

Social-Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Source: CASEL

Student-Centered Learning

Refers to a wide variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students. To accomplish this goal, schools, teachers, guidance counselors, and other educational specialists may employ a wide variety of educational methods, from modifying assignments and instructional strategies in the classroom to entirely redesigning the ways in which students are grouped and taught in a school. Source:  The Glossary of Education Reform