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National Board Certification for Teachers--Using Buzzwords
Saturday, April 24, 2021 by Joetta M Schneider NBCT

Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

The candidate said, “What if I call this a Socratic seminar?” To which I replied, “What are the hallmarks of a Socrative seminar?” I could tell that he had fallen prey to some myths about achieving National Board Certification for Teachers and that for this young man, some research was in order.

The Use of Buzzwords

Should you use “buzzwords” when writing for National Board Certification? Absolutely. But you must use them appropriately.

The Myth of Buzzwords

     When candidates get together in cohorts or online chats, they are often overwhelmed by all they learn. This is why the process of National Board Certification is so great for teachers! Teachers pursuing National Board Certification are thrown into a rich environment of authentic learning, pedagogy, and best practices. We begin to question our own understanding and teaching methods— which is a part of our growth mindset. We are swimming amid possibilities and a discussion of topics that make National Board Certification the best professional development for teachers who want to become better teachers.

     During this time, it is appropriate to ask yourself, “Am I doing a Socratic seminar or is this an example of any other discussion strategy I may or may not have heard of?” This is why I advocate research as a very important part of achieving your National Board Certification. We know that our students benefit from a productive struggle as they make sense of new information, and you will, too. It is appropriate to know and use correct terms for the strategies and techniques you use in the classroom. Rather than saying, “group work” or “class discussion,” take the time to determine the exact name for the type of group work or class discussion you are having. This kind of specificity will reap benefits as your writing will paint a more clear picture in the assessor’s mind.

Appropriate Use of Buzzwords for National Board Teacher Certification

     For all the advice to National Board Certified Teacher candidates that says they should know the “buzzwords” in education and in their content areas, the purpose is never to dazzle the assessors with lingo. Instead, the use of appropriate buzzwords shows that you are current in your professional development, including professional reading.

     An example of the use of buzzwords is formative assessment. Thirty years ago we often gave short quizzes to see how prepared our students were for a chapter test. Although formative assessment was a thought in 1962, classroom teachers didn’t see it implemented as a formal practice until much later. Effective teachers have probably always formatively assessed students, but many of the strategies and practices we currently use had not been devised. A quick search shows that books readily available to classroom teachers on formative assessment weren’t available till at least the early 2000s. My own recollection of first achieving my NBCT is that the actual term, “formative assessment” was not yet used in the National Board process in 2006. Current teachers understand the use of formative assessment as a formal practice and this shows up in their teaching and their writing. 

     Other examples of buzzwords can be found in the NBPTS Standards for your content area— at least those that were in use when the process was overhauled in 2013.  Currently, the AYA Science standards include references to “ethical behavior,” “promoting respect,” and “multiple paths for learning,” among many others. As you read through the Standards many times during your candidacy, pay attention to words that seem to present themselves time and again and make sure that you have analyzed your teaching for evidence of those practices. 

     Another method for incorporating buzzwords into your writing for the National Board includes becoming aware of specific research and trends in your own field. In science, this might be “gamification,” “flipped classroom,” or “citing evidence to support their reasoning.”

The Best Way to Write for National Board Certification for Teachers

      Remember to write clearly and concisely, use examples, and spend time revising after you’ve had several teachers read your writing for content, clarity, and for adherence to your instructions and prompts. As you do these things, you may see places where buzzwords would provide more evidence of your accomplished teaching than the words you have already used. Research the buzzwords and make sure you can answer any question about why your method is an example of a certain buzzword. For more information about writing for the National Board, you can check out our blog post, Six Tips for Writing for the National Board or watch Doctora Santilli’s presentation, Succinct Writing for National Boardson our YouTube channel. 

What buzzwords are new to your certificate area?

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