Let’s play buzzword bingo!

OK, so you know what a gallery walk is. How about Suggestopedia? Dance of the lemons? The threshold hypothesis? Career lattice? BS Bingo? Fishbowl? Grain size? Jukes and Kallikaks? The Matthew effect? It’s all education jargon, and each term is concisely defined in a new ASCD book from education historian and policy scholar Diane Ravitch titled EdSpeak, A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon.

edspeak: A language spoken by those inside the education profession. Edspeak is often not comprehensible to people outside the profession. The term is modeled on George Orwell’s “newspeak” from his novel 1984. Also known as educationese, eduspeak, and pedagogese.

The historian in Ravitch feels compelled to also include some key figures, laws, reports and projects of historical significance. We learn a little about the Coleman Report, George S. Counts, the Perry Preschool [Edspeak2] Project, IDEA and HOUSSE, the National Reading Panel, and the free school movement. “Some of these terms,” she writes, “are multisyllabic replacements for simple, easily understood words; others describe government programs or the arcane technology of testing. I also added biographies of a few key figures who shaped the philosophy and practice of education, with only one proviso: no biographies of living persons.” A shame, since we’d love to see how Ravitch would describe her fellow bloggerDeborah Meier.

We spent a pleasant hour browsing through the book’s 245 pages (ok, we’re education geeks), and agree with ASCD’s promotional description: “EdSpeak translates what Ravitch refers to as the ‘strange tongue’ of pedagogese into plain English, adding historical context and lively commentary along the way.”

This glossary will serve as a valuable resource both for veteran educators who need to stay abreast of newly emerging terminology and for newcomers to the profession–be they teachers, administrators, parents, students, or just citizens who care about what happens in the classroom.

Although Ravitch generally treats education’s arcane lingo with respect, she’s well aware that some expressions “are simply long-winded ways of sounding impressive without saying anything at all.” In her preface, she even offers a link to a web-based ed jargon generator “that invites visitors to ‘amaze your colleagues with finely crafted phrases of educational nonsense!'” She provides these examples: leverage school-to-work learning styles and enable developmentally appropriate units.

You’ll have to buy (or find) the book to read definitions of the puzzling terms we cited at the beginning of this review. But here’s one definition, to whet your appetite for EdSpeakexploration. (In the book itself, the abbreviation we’ve used below is frankly spelled out. We’d guess it gave the ASCD editors a frisson moment.):

BS Bingo – A game that bored teachers play during professional development sessions. The attendee creates a grid on a piece of paper with five columns and five rows and then writes a different overused term or phrase in each block (e.g., multiple perspectives, exemplars, data-driven, and so on.) Whenever a speaker uses one of those words or phrases, the attendee checks off the relevant box. When there are five blocks checked off horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, the game is “won.” Also know as Buzzword Bingo.

The new book is available both in hardcover ($29.95) and softcover ($23.95) with discounts for ASCD members. A worthwhile investment for your school resource library or your own professional bookshelf.

Related categories: