Education buzzwords or legitimate language of discipline?

Posted on: December 18, 2008

I was intrigued by my colleague Damien’s recent blog , within which reference was made to educational terms as “education buzzwords” or “eduspeak”. Damien asks:

 How exposed are academics to this language by curriculum designers (now known as edunerds – pronounced ed-u-nerds)?

Damien then provides “an initial list of eduspeak buzzwords”, some of which are technical language within the education domain, others are newly coined educational terms arising from the trends of information age and influences of new technology.

Upon reading Damien’s blog, I too couldn’t help but reflect on the difficulties I faced almost daily with the language of other disciplines, more recently the technical language in auditing, accounting, economics and finance as I engage in curriculum design work in business education. But the fact remains that I am very comfortable with the language of my discipline, as the academics I have been working with are comfortable with their respective discipline language.

Why might this be the case? One explanation is that of acculturation. We absorb the culture, values and practices of our discipline and we find meanings through written and spoken words. Without this common language, our world in this culture/discipline would be meaningless. The notions of natives and immigrants are apt here – it is a lot harder to learn  and master a second language!

But the interesting thing in the eduspeak debate is that criticisms of this nature are more prevalent in the world of academia, compared to say the world of medicine. As observers as well as consumers of the medical field, we simply accept that there are many medical jargon that will take us years to understand, but we try to anyway, perhaps out of fear, interest or simple curiosity.

On that note, I would like to share an interesting observation about the transformation of an academic who was totally “non-edunerd” when our curriculum renewal project began a year or so ago. She now finds herself proposing a PhD research on education-related topic. The language spoken in her PhD proposal was not one coming from a Finance expert but one who has developed an interest in educational practice. Sure, it is her second language, and she is finding it a challenge, but her decision to acculturate no doubt will alleviate many of her difficulties over time.

I guess it is about ones willingness to understand the culture and practices of a particular discipline that makes the difference. But at the end of the day this boils down to interest, motivation and the affordances of time.

1 Response to "Education buzzwords or legitimate language of discipline?"

Acculturation of academics to the language of education is a challenge! As the organiser of our visiting scholar seminar series, I’m always trying to increase staff attendance. And why don’t they come? Well a few I’ve spoken to say the instant they see the word “pedagogy” in the advertisement they just delete it. And pedagogy is a word every academic who teaches should know.

My approach is therefore to take all eduspeak out of seminar advertisements, (something I’m good at because I have a hard time remembering and using it despite working in the field), and then gently introducing a few terms during the course of the seminar. It’s a slow approach, but I think it’s going to work in the long term.


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