In engineering, I have grown accustomed to using highly technical words that sometimes I didn’t even know the meaning of. Words like exacerbate (to make worse) and efflorescence (that white stuff on Torgerson Hall). I don’t think engineers do it on purpose, we just like to pick the most appropriate, albeit technical, word to fit the situation.
But I think the world of academia has a conspiracy going to confuse the public. They throw out words that hit my ears and have me thinking “Say What?” Let’s look at some examples. I put this here as a public service to those, like me, who hope to fit into this secret society / conspiracy one day and will need to talk the talk.
“Pedagogy” Now, somewhere in the back of my brain something tingled and said, “Isn’t that some revered figure that you build statues for?” I don’t think I was right. So I had to look it up:
Now, on the same web site, look up “pedagogue”. I thought it funny. I also found in the “rhymes with section” the guy with the statue, a demagogue.
The second word was “Rubric” This isn’t a word that seems to exist in learner-centered teaching, but was used in the TA seminar. I thought it sounded like one of those cubes with all the colors, and it turns out that has some semblance of correctness.
Rubric (n) – 4. a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests
Now when I asked a couple professors that live next door to me, they described a rubric as essentially a grid that shows exactly how much each part of each assignment is worth. It gives the teacher a structure with which to assign grades. And it gives the student the exact roadmap to how to get the score they want. This is absolutely opposite of the philosophy in class where we are stressing that we don’t want students to ask how much each little thing is worth. Interesting.
The third word is “praxis”. Now just listening to the word and thinking about its parts, it sounds something like “practice” but has an “axis” in it. So my guess was that it was the axis along which one practices. I wasn’t far off:
Praxis (n) – 1. ACTION, PRACTICE 2. practical application of a theory
So essentially, it is how I apply theories in the practice of teaching. Did they really need a separate word for this?
I am sure as time goes on, I will find more of the secret code of the educational profession. The more I know, the more ready I will be to attend the cocktail parties in the department of education. I am hoping that the password that gets you in the door is one of the three words I already know. And I bet that if I drop one of the others in conversation, I will get some more secret code words in response. At one word a month, I may be ready when I leave Tech and head out to teach for real.