Tag Archives: professional development

Term of Art: Double Bind

Double bind: An inescapable dilemma involving conflicting demands that allow no right or satisfactory response. An influential theory of the etiology of schizophrenia was put forward by the English-born US anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) and several co-authors in an article in the journal Behavioral Science in 1956, according to which schizophrenia is caused by parenting styles that create double binds for children, as when a mother complains to her son for not giving her a kiss but recoils physically whenever the child does kiss her. This theory was enthusiastically adopted by the Scottish psychiatrist Ronald D(avid) Laing (1927-89) and others during the 1970s and 1980s, but empirical evidence has not been forthcoming in support of the theory, despite its attractiveness.

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Term of Art: Cultural Determinant

“A factor arising from racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic background that may systematically influence test performance on a specific assessment instrument.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

James Bryant Conant on High Schools

“If one accepts the ideal of a democratic, fluid society with a minimum of class distinction, the maximum of fluidity between different vocational groups, then the ideal secondary school is a comprehensive public high school.”

James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) as Quoted in The Teacher and the Taught (1963)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

Term of Art: Analogy

analogy: A comparison between two different but related things. The ability to comprehend and create analogies is an important component of critical reasoning capabilities. For example, an analogy might compare the biological process of a tree growing from a small seed to a tall oak, to the human process of development from infancy to adulthood. This analogy would be written;


Another type of analogy is the visual analogy. For example, in a 2 X 2 cell grid, the two cells on the left might contain blue strs, and the top cell on the right might contain a green square. The person taking the test must then select which of several presented figures (including the correct green square) mts go in the empty cell.

For some students with learning disabilities, understanding analogies may be very difficult. They may process information in fairly concrete ways, and miss more subtle connections between dissimilar things.

Ofteh, however, the ability to reason analogically is a relative strength for students with learning disabilities.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Term of Art: Canonical

“canonical: Characteristic or most frequent, either in a particular language of across languages in general. Thus a canonical form of words or syllables is a phonological pattern to which they typically conform; a canonical clause, as defined e.g. by Huddleston and Pullum CGEL, is declarative and active, as opposed to a ‘non-canonical’ interrogative or passive.

Also in the sense of ‘simplest’ or ‘most straightforward.’ Thus a pattern e.g. of ‘one form one meaning’ might be called ‘canonical’ in that the description of other patterns is more complex.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Term of Art: Subordination

“Subordination: In grammatical theory, a relationship between two units in which one is a constituent of the other or dependent on it. The subordinate unit is commonly a subordinate clause organized ‘under’ a superordinate clause. Such organization can be described in two ways: the subordinate unit as a constituent of the superordinate unit and the subordinate unit as dependent on but distinct from the superordinate unit. In the sentence, They did it when they got home, the subordinate when-clause may be either a constituent of its superordinate main clause, which begins with They and is coextensive with the entire sentence, or dependent on a more limited main clause They did it. There is in principle no limit (apart from comprehensibility and practicality) to the subordination of clauses one under another. In the sentence, They saw that I was wondering who won the competition, the subordinate who-clause is a constituent of or dependent on its superordinate that-clause (which ends with the competition), while the that-clause is also a subordinate clause, in turn a constituent of or dependent on its superordinate clause beginning with They. Subordinate clauses may also be constituents of or dependent on phrases: in What’s the name of the woman who’s winning the competition?, the who-clause modifies the noun woman.

Form. Traditionally, part of a sentence can only be classed as a subordinate clause if it contains either an identifiable or an ‘understood’ finite verb. In contemporary grammatical analysis, however, subordinate clauses may be classed as: finite (‘I think that nobody is in’); nonfinite (‘He used to be shy, staying on the fringes at parties’); verbless (‘She will help you, if at all possible’), Traditionally, the second category would be classed as a participial phrase and the third as a clause with the verb ‘understood’ (it is). Finite subordinate clauses are usually marked as subordinate either by an initial subordinating conjunction (after in He got angry after I started to beat him at table-tennis) or by an initial wh-word that also functions within the clause (who in Most Iranians are Indo-Europeans who speak Persian, where who is the subject of the subordinate clause). These subordination markers sometimes introduce nonfinite clauses (while in I listened to the music while revising my report), and verbless clauses (if in If necessary, I’ll phone you).

Function. Subordinate clauses fall into four functional classes: nominal, relative, adverbial, comparative. Nominal or noun classes function to a large extent like noun phrases: they can be subject of the sentence (‘That he was losing his hearing did not worry him unduly’) or direct object (‘He knew that he was losing his hearing’). Relative or adjective/adjectival clauses modify nouns: the that-clause modifies star in ‘She saw a star that she had not seen before.’ Adverbial of adverb clauses function to a large extent like adverbs: the adverb there could replace the where-clause in ‘You should put it back where you found it.’ Comparative clauses are used in comparison and are commonly introduced by then or as: ‘The weather is better than it was yesterday’; ‘The weather is just as nice as it was yesterday.

All such clauses occur in complex sentences. Subordination contrasts with coordination, in which the units, commonly the clauses of a compound sentence, have equal status: the clauses joined by but in We wanted to see the cathedral first, but the children wanted to see the castle straight away. Sentences in which both subordinate and coordinate clauses occur are compound-complex sentences: with before and but in We wanted to visit the cathedral before we did anything else, but the children wanted to see the castle straight away.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Term of Art: Orthography

“Orthography: [Through French and Latin from Greek orthographia correct writing]. 1. A term for correct or accepted writing and spelling and for a normative set of conventions for writing and especially spelling. In the 15th and 16th centuries, there was considerable variety and uncertainty in the writing and printing of English. Advocates of standardized spelling emphasized the importance of regularization by referring to it as trewe ortografye, trew orthographie, etc. 2. The study of letters and how they are used to express sounds and form words, especially as a traditional aspect of grammar; the spelling system of a language, whether considered ‘true’ and ‘correct’ or not. In linguistics, however, the name for the study of the writing system of a language and for the system itself is more commonly graphology, a level of language parallel to phonology. The earlier, prescriptive sense of the term continues to be used, but the later, more neutral sense is common among scholars of language. The orthography of English has standardized on two systems, British and American. While far from uniform in either system, it allows for much less variation than is possible, for example, in the orthography of Scots.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Term of Art: Prior Knowledge

“prior knowledge: The totality of an individual’s experience and knowledge at any given time—that is, what a student brings as background information to a new learning experience. The more prior knowledge a person has, the more prepared he or she will be to learn new ideas. Almost everything that a person learns or can learn depends on the extent of his or her prior knowledge. One of the major missions of school is to build students’ fund of background knowledge so they have a foundation for future learning.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Chapter 7 of The Reading Mind: “Reading After the Digital Revolution” Summary, Implications and Discussion Questions

“Chapter 7: “Reading After the Digital Revolution” Summary, Implications and Discussion Questions


  • Software designed to teach reading has been variable in its success. Some applications work well, others do not. Advantages that software could theoretically bring to the teaching of reading have been harder to exploit than anticipated.
  • There is a small cost to reading on a screen compared to reading on paper. That cost will likely decline and may well disappear in the coming years, as engineers find better ways to design ebooks.
  • Students can access information at unprecedented scale and with unprecedented speed, but there is little evidence that this access is influencing reading or learning.
  • There’s also little evidence that digital gadgets have displaced reading in students’ lives, but that may mostly be that students have never read much.


  • Although the comprehension cost associated with e-textbooks is modest, it’s large enough that most students don’t want to use them. Schools and districts should be cautious in adopting them until they improve.
  • “Digital literacy” (defined as learning how to navigate common applications) seems to be mostly overblown. Common applications and platforms are written to be easy to use, and most students gain familiarity with them at home. The exception is disadvantaged students who do not have the access to digital technologies that wealthier students do. For these students, the idea of gaining this sort of digital literacy at school makes sense.
  • Although there’s little evidence that digital amusements are displacing reading, I still favor limits on screen time. I believe the lack of evidence is due to what statisticians call a “floor effect”: reading didn’t decline with the introduction of digital technologies because it couldn’t go much lower. Limiting screen time will not only make time for reading, it removes choice from the environment for part of a kid’s day, and that may make reading the most attractive choice available, as described in Chapter 6.
  • If I’m right about children today having a lower threshold for boredom than children a generation ago, then limits on screen time might help. If children are more often left to entertain themselves, we would expect that they will not only learn to do so, they will learn that sometimes one is bored for awhile before there’s a payoff. Sometimes a book starts slowly, but builds in excitement. A flower or an ant hill initially may seem mundane, but sustained attention reveals more there then was first appreciated. There are, as far as I know, no data on whether this supposition is true.

 Discussion Questions

  • Many parents I speak to express a sense of helplessness about screen time. They feel the digital revolution makes technology ubiquitous and they cannot keep their children removed from it. What would you say to such a parent?
  • As noted, students are often too trusting of information they find on the Web. Researchers are trying to develop training regimens to help students learn the skills to evaluate what they find, but progress has been halting. What should parents and teachers do? Limit the sites that students visit for research to list of trusted sources? Let students roam the Web, but follow them and provide feedback?
  • Data indicate that children spend most of their digital time on activities we would not say are especially enriching: Instagramming selfies, shooting zombies in virtual worlds, and so on. Most parents would prefer they were getting some fresh air, or seeing friends face to face. The obvious strategy is to limit screen time. But doing so surrenders the possibility that children will take advantage of other great opportunities a computer affords to learn, or to build, or to meaningfully connect with others. Is there not a strategy by which we can nudge students toward doing more of the digital activities we think are enriching, rather than cutting them off entirely?
  • I suggested that children today read more than ever, but the big increase comes for texting, reading within computer games, and the like. I noted that this type of reading is unlikely to improve comprehension, but would improve fluency. There’s no data on whether or not it would actually work, but would you be willing to take the plunge? Should increased access to text-heavy gaming be a routine part of reading instruction (presumably used as children are developing fluency)?
  • Have you ever cut yourself off from digital devices for a significant period of time, say 48 hours or more? How did you react? Did you feel differently in the 48th hour compared to the first hour? Would this be a useful exercise for students?”

Excerpted from: Willingham, Daniel T. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Term of Art: Hebrew

“Hebrew: West Semitic, spoken in the interior of Palestine; the language of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament), progressively influenced and replaced by Aramaic from the 8th century BC. Last attested in the 2nd century AD; thereafter a written and liturgical language, until revived in its modern form, especially from the 1920s, as a progressive official language of Jewish settlers in what is now Israel. Written in a Semitic alphabet whose modern form (‘square Hebrew’) can be traced back to the 3rd century AD.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.