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Educational Buzzphrases

[Warning! Curmudgeon alert!]

Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of edublogs (for example, brightMystery, No. 2 pencil, and Joanne Jacobs) have been pointing to this story about overused phrases in academia and a list of such phrases that could be part of a drinking game. Here’s the list:

1. Rubric (Just try not to laugh the next time you hear it!)
2. Paradigm
3. Time-on-task
4. Incentivize
5. Dead white guys
6. Scaffold (as a verb)
7. Authentic learning
8. Differentiated instruction
9. Integrated learning
10. Constructivist
11. Balanced literacy
12. Highly qualified
13. Standards-based
14. Performance-based
15. Research-based
16. Scientifically-based
17. Self-directed learning (Sounds too much like something that causes hair to grow on palms.)
18. Developmentally-appropriate
19. Capacity building
20. Best practices (Mandatory group hugs, however, around anyone who uses the vernacular “stuff that works pretty good.”)
21. Higher order thinking (I had a roommate in college who was really into higher order thinking. He is no longer able to produce children.)
22. Collaborate (Not unless pastries are served.)
23. Transparency (It doesn’t really exist.)
24. Train wreck (When used to describe standards movement/NCLB, etc. )

I just couldn’t get worked up about this list, and I wondered if perhaps I had lost my sense of humor. Since that seems unlikely (you can judge for yourself, of course), I tried to figure out why I was such a party-pooper about this. I think there are three reasons:

  1. I’m still relatively new to academia (five years) and my experience is limited to higher education. Also, it may be that some of these terms are more prevalent in elementary and secondary education. Anyway, although I’d run into a few of these terms, they just didn’t resonate with me.
  2. The list strikes me as a mish-mosh. Some of these terms are “new agey” (like self-directed learning), some are fancy terms for fairly common concepts (like rubric or paradigm), and some are way too generic (best practices, for example) to be in a list of academic jargon. Then there are terms like train wreck and dead white guys that don’t strike me as jargony at all. Also, more suitable candidates come to mind, like active learning, assessment (although that may be a bit generic as well), and student-centered, to name a few.
  3. Most importantly, I’m jaded. I spent way too much time in government and in the computer field to be impressed anymore by buzzwords (boy, could I come up with a drinking game). I personally think that academia has a long way to go to even come close to either government or computer science in terms of buzzwords.

So, I guess you can still color me unimpressed. But, hey, far be it from me to stand in the way of a drinking game. Just be sure to drink and play responsibly (and remember to designate a driver). :-)

2 Responses to “Educational Buzzphrases”

  1. Robert Says:

    Clearly you just haven’t worked with education majors and departments enough. :)

  2. Ticklish Ears » Blog Archive » Assimilation by the jargonites Says:

    […] How does that strike you as an academic buzzphrase? I’m warming to the term because it’s part of my new title: Faculty Fellow for Significant Student Learning. […]

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