From the Principal

Teacher Talk

Now that we are returning to “normal programming” at School, there are some things that parents have learnt about education and some things that are likely to have confounded them.

One of these might have been “education-speak” – the professional jargon of teachers.

Obfuscation: The obscuring of the intended meaning of communication by making the message difficult to understand, usually with confusing and ambiguous language. The obfuscation might be either unintentional or intentional (although intent usually is connoted), and is accomplished with circumlocution (talking around the subject), the use of jargon (technical language of a profession), and the use of an argot (ingroup language) of limited communicative value to outsiders.

Jargon: Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.

Used as a normal part of a teacher’s working life, these terms and acronyms creep into the minds of students who adopt them and use them, often to the consternation of parents trying to support their child’s education. And our lack of knowledge can make us feel unnessarily stupid.

You have been an integral part of your child’s education during the isolation period and I will try to give you a brief summary of some of the acronyms and terms used in education that will allow your children to believe that you actually do understand what they are doing.

This list is not definitive but should provide parents with a chance of not seeing that “You have no idea what is going on!” look from your child.

So here we go:


  • ACARA: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is the independent statutory authority responsible for the development of a national curriculum, a national assessment program, and a national data collection and reporting program that supports learning for Australian students.
  • ATAR: The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank is the primary criterion for entry into undergraduate courses in universities in Australia.
  • EBI: Even Better If…
  • LMS: Learning Management System — Software used by schools to track grades, deliver curriculum, offer or evaluate courses, etc. St Columba uses SEQTA as its primary LMS.
  • IEP: Individualised Education Plan — A personalised document that is developed for an individual student who needs access to special education services.
  • NESA: The New South Wales Education Standards Authority is the state government education statutory authority with the responsibility for the establishment and monitoring of quality teaching, learning, assessment and school standards in the Australian state of New South Wales
  • PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment. Tests are given to 15-year-old students in a number of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries on mathematics, science, reading, financial literacy, and collaborative problem-solving. The PISA tests serve as an evaluative comparison of education by country.
  • WALA:  We Are Learning About: A WALA statement is often useful for covering a broader topic or concept, without getting into the nitty gritty of specific skills.
  • WALT:  We Are Learning To: A Learning Intention, a WALT makes the learning, concept, understanding or skill clear to students.
  • WILF: What I’m Looking For: A success Criteria, a WILF makes clear to students, what they are expected to demonstrate or produce.
  • WWW: What Went Well


  •  21st Century Skills: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Citizenship
  • Ability Grouping: Placing students into groups based solely on their achievement on a test.
  • Deeper Learning: A set of student educational outcomes including acquisition of robust core academic content, higher-order thinking skills, and learning dispositions.
  • Formative Assessment: Is done during the learning process to identify how and what students are learning and what the teacher needs to do next.
  • Summative Assessment: Evaluates student learning at the end of a unit. This could be a final exam or essay.
  • Collaborative Learning: Involves groups of learners working together to collectively solve problems, discuss and create.
  • Design Thinking: The Design Thinking process, from Stanford University, involves five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. In classrooms, students can learn to solve problems, invent, and create solutions by using the same process as the world’s inventors and thinkers.
  • Differentiated Instruction: Providing instruction according to the different ability levels in a classroom.
  • Explicit Instruction: A teaching strategy that provides students clear steps, examples and guidance. For example, the teacher’s aide assists students to identify verbs in a sentence by providing them with clear, sequenced information and practice, until students can do the task independently.
  • Flipped Classroom: Learning where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates.
  • Metacognition: Thinking about thinking. For example, the teacher’s aide helps the student to identify and name the strategies needed to work out a math problem, based on what they already know and still need to learn.
  • Open questions: Require more than a one word answer and often begin with words such as How, What, and Why?
  • Scaffolding: Is the support given to a student, based on their learning needs, with the aim to develop independent learners.

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