Glossary of ELM Terms


Conceptual vs. Procedural Instruction

Conceptual instruction focuses on ideas and meaning, whereas procedural instruction emphasizes the routines students can use to complete specific tasks. Research tells us that students should have opportunities to reinforce one type of understanding with the other. Conceptual knowledge helps students understand why procedures work the way they do, and procedural skills deepen conceptual understanding.1


Information about a student. Data can come from any source—an observation, a conversation, a statement, a behavior, a test response, or a test score.

Formative Assessment

A diagnosis of student learning that is embedded within a learning activity. Formative assessment provides information about where gaps in knowledge and understanding exist and how teachers and students can improve learning.2

For more information, see: Formative Assessment Essentials, Our Approach

Interim Assessment

An evaluation of students’ knowledge relative to a specific set of academic goals in order to inform policymaker or educator decisions at the classroom, school, or district level.3

Learning Map Views and Learning Map Neighborhoods

Learning Map Views and Learning Map Neighborhoods are terms that are used interchangeably to identify a focused collection of nodes chosen to indicate KSUs for a predetermined learning goal.

Learning Progression

A description in terms of levels of understanding and performance of how students learn to reason within a content domain.4 A learning progression contains information about the content and practices in a discipline that are drawn from research on student learning. The highest level in a progression is usually the learning goal. Students’ navigation of a progression is affected by the quality of instruction.5


A node represents critical knowledge, skills, or understandings (KSU) for student learning. Nodes are organized within the learning map to indicate precursor and successor skills for learning targets, which are based on learning standards. Precursor nodes indicate the critical KSUs needed to demonstrate mastery of the succeeding KSU.

Node Connections

Connections between the nodes describe the incremental development of knowledge or skill by connecting a less complex node to a more complex node. The connections also represent multiple appropriate learning sequences for students.

Organized Learning Model

A description of how learning unfolds over time and through productive experiences for a variety of students. A learning model explicitly outlines the multiple pathways students may navigate as they learn to reason within a content domain. Both learning maps and learning progressions fall within the learning model category.

Personalized Instruction

The effort of a teacher to practice flexibility in instructional practices and organizing the learning environment based on individual student characteristics and needs.6

Responsive Instruction

Instruction that is informed by a teachers’ interpretation of available information about his or her students. Recently this term has been applied narrowly to focus on remediation or intervention, but it should be used broadly to refer to any instruction teachers give based on data about their students.

Summative Assessment

A one-time evaluation of student performance against a defined set of content standards, given at the end of the semester or school year. Summative assessment is used solely for grading purposes and can be a teacher–administered, end-of-unit, or end-of-semester test. Summative assessment is the least flexible of the assessments.7


For Enhanced Learning Maps purposes, an instructional resource aligned to one or more standards that provides learning map information, teacher notes, an instructional activity consisting of two or more lessons and supplemental materials, a student activity, and a student activity solution or feedback guide. The unit should enhance or support, not replace, the adopted curriculum used in the teacher’s school or district.

  1. National Research Council. (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. J. Kilpatrick, J. Swafford, and B. Findell (Eds.). Mathematics Learning Study Committee, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from
  2. Perie, M., Marion, S., & Gong, B. (2009). Moving toward a comprehensive assessment system: A framework for considering interim assessments. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 28(3), 5–13. doi:10.1111/j.1745-3992.2009.00149.x
  3. See reference 3.
  1. Smith, C., Wiser, M., Anderson, C., & Krajcik, J. (2006). Implications of research on children’s learning for standards and assessment: A proposed learning progression for matter and atomic-molecular theory. Measurement, 14 (1&2), 1–98.
  2. R. G. Duncan, A. D. Rogat, A. Yarden. (2009). A learning progression for deepening students’ understandings of modern genetics across the 5th–10th grades. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(6), pp. 655–674. doi:10.1002/tea.20312
  3. Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2008). Personalized instruction: The key to student achievement (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
  4. See reference 2.