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Training Tools for Curriculum Development. A Resource Pack
Core Modules




Glossary of Terms

A  |  B  |  C  |  D – E  |  F – H  |  I  |  K – L  |  M  |  N – O  |  P  |  Q – R  |  S  |  T – Z


ACADEMIC (SCHOOL) YEAR: The time during which a school, college or university holds classes. It measures the amount of investment in time for education.

ACCOUNTABILITY: A situation where two parties are involved, where one delegates authority to the other to take specific actions, but the authority is conditionally delegated based on demonstrably credible performance.

ADULT EDUCATION: The practice of teaching and educating adults. This often happens in the workplace, through 'extension' or 'continuing education' courses at secondary schools, at a college or university. Other learning places include folk high schools, community colleges, and lifelong learning centers.

AIMS OF THE CURRICULUM: Usually a number of overarching goals that provide a context within which the rest of the curriculum is developed.

ANALYSIS OF STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS (S.W.O.T.): A strategic planning method used to identify the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving the objective of a project.

ASSESSMENT: All activities that teachers use to gauge student progress. Assessment always includes an informed judgment against explicit or implicit standards.

ATTAINMENT TARGETS: A defined level of ability that a pupil is expected to achieve in every subject at each key stage.


BASIC EDUCATION: According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), basic education comprises primary education (first stage of basic education) and lower secondary education (second stage).

BASIC LEARNING NEEDS: Includes both essential learning tools and the basic learning content required by human beings.

BASIC SKILLS (adults): The primary skills needed by adults in life such as reading, writing and number skills.

BASIC SKILLS (job related): Skills required by employers; including adult basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, but also other cognitive, communicative and self-regulation skills.

BENCHMARK TEST: Any assessment instrument that can be used to monitor students' progress toward curriculum standards.

BENCHMARK: Detailed description of a specific level of student performance expected of students at particular ages, grades, or developmental levels. Benchmarks describe the specific developmental components of the general domain identified by a standard.


CAPACITY BUILDING: A process that involves a series of actions directed at helping participants to increase their knowledge, skills and understandings and to develop the attitudes needed to bring about desired developmental changes.

CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT: Any activity which aims explicitly at strengthening the participants so that they can better achieve their development objectives by having a positive and sustainable impact on any of the following: individual officers with the necessary capacities and incentives; organisations which have a clear mandate and are effectively run; a supportive public service; and a motivating, stable and structured context, without having negative effects on any of these levels.

CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION: Area of educational activity geared at helping people learn how to become active, informed and responsible citizens.

COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE: Group of people who have in common a passion for a topic, a domain of knowledge, a notion of community and a practice. The members of the community of practice deepen their knowledge and expertise mainly through knowledge production and sharing, and information exchanges, combining face-to-face and on-line activities.

COMPETENCE/COMPETENCY: Possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity. Implies a context for a measurable outcome.

COMPETENCY-BASED APPROACHES: Generation, mobilisation and integration of resources such as knowledge, know-how, attitudes and values, in order to face diverse type of learning situations and their links to real-life situations. The different types of situations are the criteria to conceptualise and define the exit (graduation) profile as well as to orientate the selection and prioritisation of disciplinary contents (the syllabi) and to set up the assessment criteria and tools.

COMPETENCY-BASED CURRICULUM: A curriculum whereby the achievement expectations of students are defined in terms of a set of competencies.

COMPULSORY EDUCATION: Period of educational attendance mandated by law of all students in a given community.

CONSULTATION (Curriculum): Process orientated to canvass the views and experiences of key stakeholders about proposed curriculum reforms, whether specific or wholesale.

CONTENT STANDARDS: Broadly stated expectations of what students should know and be able to do in different subjects and grade levels.

CONTENT: Set of knowledge and/or cultural forms that students need to learn and exhibit an understanding of as an essential process in the development of the goals defined in the curriculum aims.

CORE CURRICULUM: Common set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that all students should master. It can be formulated as a set of core contents or defined as a set of core subjects.

CRITERIA FOR TEXTBOOK EVALUATION: Set of explicitly formulated features that a textbook should possess to pass a selection process. Usually these features are formulated in a way that permits their assessment on a scale from “poor” to “outstanding”.

CRITERION-REFERENCED ASSESSMENT: Process of evaluating (and grading) the learning of students against a set of pre-specified criteria.

CROSS-CURRICULAR APPROACH: Educational approach where selected content, including themes to be taught (e.g. values) or competencies to be developed (e.g. writing) are largely included in other learning areas of the curriculum.

CURRICULUM DESIGN: Strategic process of an informed and deliberate construction of learning opportunities to enable learners to achieve the desired level and scope of competencies, knowledge and understanding upon completion of a learning stage.

CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: Professional activities which teachers, researchers, and other educationalists undertake in order to improve and support the curriculum, from the development of innovative teaching materials or methods, to the formulation of new learning outcomes or syllabuses.

CURRICULUM EVALUATION: Assessment of the value of the entire curriculum process by gathering evidence to judge the degree of achievement of aims, and also to enable decisions to be made on future progress.

CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK: Documents that provide general orientations on what knowledge, competencies, values and attitudes should be incorporated into school programs and how this should be done, by stipulating the parameters to be considered when setting curriculum goals and contents, when choosing learning methods and materials and for assessment of the attainment of education standards.

CURRICULUM IMPLEMENTATION: Efforts carried out after a stage of curriculum design to turn designed ideas into a set of teaching practices. This usually requires in-service education and support materials such as teaching guides and/or textbooks to assist in the process of change.

CURRICULUM INTEGRATION: Teaching approach that enables students and teachers to construct broadly applicable concepts/abilities/competencies without subject-area boundaries.

CURRICULUM PROCESSES: Processes that produce quality curriculum. These include: curriculum development, curriculum consultation, curriculum implementation and curriculum evaluation.

CURRICULUM REFORM: In a restricted sense, is a move to implement changes to teaching and learning, involving subject contents, didactics, pedagogical development and evaluation. In a broader sense it entails a parallel political process expressing social expectations to meet social needs through education.

CURRICULUM RELEVANCE: Judgment made from the point of view of a stakeholder in the education process about the likelihood of satisfying social and individual learning needs through the curriculum.

CURRICULUM RENEWAL: Developmental, consistent, long-term and ongoing process that helps a school to move toward a more effective curriculum.

CURRICULUM STRUCTURE: Array of relationships between curriculum elements. The structure of the curriculum can be organised around different principles: learning goals, subject knowledge, and pedagogy, among others.

CURRICULUM: Contract between society, politics and schools/teachers about the way of organising and providing sequences of learning experiences aimed at producing desired learning outcomes. The curriculum reflects the kind of society to which we aspire.

D – E

DECENTRALISATION: Process of delegating power and responsibility concerning the distribution and the use of resources (e.g., finance, human resources, and curriculum) by the central government to local schools, enabling a relatively large number of decisions to be taken closer to the beneficiary.

EDUCATION FOR ALL (EFA): International initiative first launched in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990, aimed at extending the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society”.

EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION: Process of leading, guiding and controlling any specifically educational institution, for example, a government school, a national school system or a university. E-LEARNING: Education supplied via the Internet, network, or standalone computer, through a network-enabled transfer process of skills and knowledge.


EMPOWERMENT: Increase of the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities. In an educational context, it may refer to education as a way for empowerment of social actors or to the empowerment of (particular) educational actors.

EVALUATION, EDUCATIONAL: Systematic assessment of educational activities. Objects of evaluation mainly include instructional programs, school initiatives and education goals.


F – H

FEASIBILITY STUDY: Evaluation of a proposal, designed to determine the viability of carrying out a designated task, and/or to estimate the potential impact of a proposed project.

FIELD TRY OUT / LABORATORY TRY OUT: Implementation of any curriculum product, in a small restricted number of schools, under laboratory or experimental conditions to receive feedback about usability, skill level, sophistication required, etc. and to get ideas for improvement.

FORMAL VS NON-FORMAL EDUCATION / LEARNING: Formal education is classroom-based, provided by trained teachers. Non-formal education is organised education which takes place outside the formal education system, e.g. in after-school programs, community-based organisations, museums, libraries, or at home. (see also Informal Education

FOUR PILLARS-ORIENTED DESIGN: Curriculum development model based on the four pillars of learning identified in the Delors Report (1996) “Learning: the treasure within”. From this perspective the pillars are broad goals of education that can help to reorient the setting of curriculum objectives: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.

GENDER EQUALITY: The measurable equal access, participation and representation of persons regardless of sex or gender. typically used in situations where the learning opportunities or results are not the same for all.

GOVERNANCE: Activity of governing. It includes the rules of the political system to solve conflicts between actors and adopt decisions (legality), the proper functioning of institutions and their acceptance by the public (legitimacy), the efficacy of government and the achievement of consensus by participatory means.

HIGH–STAKES TEST: Test with important consequences for the test taker, being the basis of a major decision about the educational trajectory of the individual.


INCLUSIVE CURRICULUM: Flexible, relevant and diverse curricular settings, provisions and processes which embrace the individual characteristics and needs of learners from a lifelong learning perspective. It implies a holistic and universal design, taking into consideration the diversity of needs of all students and their right to education.

INFORMAL EDUCATION: Educational and learning activities often unintended or not deliberate, sometimes referred to as the “hidden curriculum”. Typically the lifelong process by which people learn from their environment and everyday experiences.


IN-SERVICE TEACHER TRAINING: Education for teachers to help them develop their competencies after s/he begins work responsibilities.

INTERNATIONAL STANDARD CLASSIFICATION OF EDUCATION (ISCED): Classification system designed to serve as an instrument for assembling, compiling and presenting comparable indicators and statistics of education both within countries and internationally. The system, introduced in 1976, was revised in 1997 (ISCED97).

ISCED 0 - PRE-PRIMARY EDUCATION: Initial stage of organised instruction, and is designed primarily to introduce very young children to a school-type environment.

ISCED 1 - PRIMARY EDUCATION: Programmes normally designed on a unit or project basis to give students a sound basic education in reading, writing and mathematics along with an elementary understanding of other subjects.

ISCED 2 - LOWER SECONDARY EDUCATION: Programmes usually more subject-oriented. The end of this level often coincides with the end of compulsory education.

ISCED 3 - UPPER SECONDARY EDUCATION: Level of education beginning at the end of compulsory education. The entrance age to this level is typically 15 or 16 years.

ISCED 4 - POST-SECONDARY NON TERTIARY EDUCATION: Programmes that straddle the boundary between upper-secondary and post-secondary education.

ISCED 5 - FIRST STAGE OF TERTIARY EDUCATION: Programmes leading to tertiary degrees and qualifications.

ISCED 6 - SECOND STAGE OF TERTIARY EDUCATION: Tertiary programmes which lead to the award of an advanced research qualification.

ISCED: International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) used to compile internationally comparable statistics on education. The classification distinguishes between seven levels of education ranging from pre-primary to tertiary.

K – L

KEY LEARNING AREA: Organisation of the school curriculum structured around fundamental concepts of major knowledge domains. It aims at providing a broad, balanced and coherent curriculum for students.

KEY STAGES: Definition of the phases of schooling in the education system, characterised by the attainment of competencies and knowledge expected of students at various ages.

KNOWLEDGE: Facts, awareness, information, and theory of skills, usually acquired through experience or education.

LIFE SKILLS: Abilities which support the adaptive and positive behaviours that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life, especially in challenging situations.

LIFELONG LEARNING: Continued, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons along one’s life.

LITERACY: Condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write. In broad terms, it is the ability to make and communicate meaning from and by the use of a variety of socially contextual symbols.

LOCALISATION OF CURRICULUM: Process whereby institutions, staff and local communities, rather than national educational boards, assume more responsibility for developing curricula.


MAINSTREAMING: Also known as integration, a practice of incorporating students identified as having special needs into general educational settings and provisions. Changes to infrastructure and materials, curriculum adjustments as well as the additional provision of specially trained teachers into general schooling, are some of the main components of this approach.

MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDGS): Eight goals to be achieved by all countries by 2015, drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations in 2000. In particular, Goal 2 is to achieve universal primary education, that is, to ensure that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

MONITORING: Process orientated towards producing awareness of the state of a system, usually by observing a situation for any changes which may occur over time.

MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION: Field of study and emerging discipline whose major aim is to create equal educational opportunities for students from diverse racial, ethnic, social-class, and cultural groups.

MULTICULTURAL ISSUES: Concerns that arise in education when a multicultural approach is adopted, that have to do with the rebalancing and/or redistribution of status, power and income among diverse cultural groups.

MULTI-GRADE / MULTI-CLASS TEACHING: Teaching of children from two or more grade levels in one classroom, requiring the employment of particular teaching

N – O

NON-PRINT MATERIALS: Audiovisual and/or electronic resources for learning, excluding textbooks and text-based electronic materials.

NORM-REFERENCED TEST: Test, assessment, or evaluation which gives an estimate of an individual’s position within a set population, with respect to the trait being measured.

NUMERACY: Proficiency which involves the ability to use a range of mathematical skills and processes confidently to solve problems in everyday life.

OBJECTIVE (BEHAVIORAL): Desired performance that learners should be able to exhibit before being considered competent. As such, it describes an intended result of instruction, rather than the process of instruction itself.

OUTCOMES-BASED EDUCATION: Education in which the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and reporting are based on a clear picture about what learners should be able to do, and all teaching and assessment is geared to produce the desired outcome.


PERFORMANCE STANDARDS: Explicit definitions of what students must do to demonstrate proficiency at a specific level of the education.

PHASED IMPLEMENTATION / ADOPTION: Strategy of implementing a systemic innovation in a phased way, so that different parts of the innovative system are implemented in different subsequent time slots.

PILOT: Temporary trial program designed to test the feasibility, functionality, popularity and potential costs of a new service or product. If the trial is successful, the project may be implemented on a permanent basis. In education, a pilot program is a school program that serves as a tentative model for future development.

POLICY DIALOGUE: Carefully constructed, deliberative meetings that address both politically controversial and technically complex aspects of an issue in a dispute mostly by gathering and making available evidence-based policies and programmes.

POLICY: A plan or course of action for reaching explicit goals, often in political, managerial, financial, or administrative areas. It may also refer to the process of making important decisions, including the identification of different alternatives such as programs or spending priorities, and choosing among them on the basis of the impact they will have.

PRE-SERVICE TEACHER EDUCATION: Education and training provided to student teachers before they have undertaken any teaching.


PUBLIC (NATIONAL / STATE) EXAMINATIONS: Tests designed by public government organisms as a means of having control of the curricula, ensuring accountability of schools to the public, selecting candidates for further educational opportunities or employment and certifying achievements.

Q – R

QUALITY EDUCATION: Education that satisfies basic learning needs and enriches the lives of learners and their overall experience of living. It produces cognitive development as well as creative and emotional development of learners in a way that is relevant for them and for the community at large.

RATIONALES FOR CHANGE: An explicit documentation of the reasons behind decisions made when designing the proposed changes, e.g. in curriculum.

RESISTANCE: Attitudes of people and organisations exposed to change processes, manifested as a difficulty, an opposition or lack of commitment to learn new ways to do things.


SCHOOL-BASED CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: Process by which schools transform the broad goals and content frameworks present in national/state curriculum documents into an actual set of effective learning opportunities for their students.

SCOPE & SEQUENCE: A component of curriculum documents that provides a content overview of all the units taught throughout the year, including the length of time to be spent on each unit.


SKILL: Ability, proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training, knowledge, experience or practice.

SOCIAL COHESION: The degree to which people in a given community feel committed to the community and each other’s wellbeing. It also refers to process of developing shared values and common bonds among a set of people.

SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION: Differentiated educational provision for students classified as having certain learning disabilities or particular learning needs, usually separate from what is generally provided within curricular frameworks and institutional structures.

STAKEHOLDERS: Groups who have an interest in a particular policy area, and to whom the policies adopted in that area can benefit or damage in a concrete or symbolic way.

STANDARDISED TEST: Test designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a uniform, standard manner.

STANDARDS-BASED CURRICULUM: A curriculum designed to produce student understanding and work that demonstrates achievement of the stated, specific expectations.

SUBJECT, SUBJECT AREA: A branch of knowledge which is typically taught in a systemic way through an institutionalised system of people, information, practices and resources.

SYLLABUS: Outline and summary of topics to be covered in an education or training course and to be assessed at the end of the course.

T – Z

TEST: Assessment situation, often administered on paper or on the computer, intended to measure the learner’s knowledge, skills or aptitudes.

TIME ALLOCATION: Period of time formally provided for instruction in a certain knowledge area. It has to be distinguished from the effective time spent in teaching and learning valuable content.

VERTICAL/HORIZONTAL ARTICULATION: Design feature of curricula that refers to the continuity of learning in a particular knowledge area, increasing in complexity and learning challenges for the students. It also refers to the availability of opportunities for establishing connections across disciplines.

WASHBACK EFFECT: Phenomenon in which testing becomes a dominant role to influence what and how teachers teach and students learn.

WHOLE SCHOOL APPROACH: A method of addressing the needs of students, staff and the community within the curriculum and across the entire learning environment by implementing reform and/or integrating topics into the curriculum as well as the functional procedures of the school, through its daily and informal activities.