21st Century Skills – a set of abilities that students need to develop in order to succeed in the information age including: critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, problem solving, information literacy, media literacy, productivity, and leadership.

504 Plan – a document created for students with disabilities who require accommodations. The 504 Plan will ensure the opportunity for a student to be academically successful and access to the learning environment, while ensuring he/she has an opportunity perform at the same level as his/her peers. Accommodations might include wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, digital text, a peanut-free lunch environment, or assistive technology.

Authentic assessment – a real-world performance task that requires students to apply acquired knowledge and skills to effectively and creatively demonstrate their mastery of a competency or learning objective. Typically, authentic assessments are completed in a real-world setting and evaluated by an expert in the field.

Authentic learning – a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications making what they learn more relevant and the student more engaged in their learning.

Cold Calls – refer to a technique whereby the ELO Coordinator contacts qualified experts in a particular field or career who have not previously expressed an interest in serving as an ELO Community Partner/Mentor. Cold calls typically refer to phone calls but can also entail drop-in visits.

Standards – what a student knows and is able to do

Standards-based education – a philosophical and pedagogical shift in the design of educational structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning. It provides flexibility in the way that credit/proficiency can be earned or awarded based on knowledge and application of the learning and providing students with personalized learning opportunities. Standards-based education also creates multiple pathways to graduation, makes better use of technology, supports new staffing patterns that utilize teacher skills and interests differently, takes advantage of learning opportunities outside of school hours and walls, and helps identify opportunities to target interventions to meet the specific learning needs of students. (US Dept. of Ed Office of Innovation and Improvement)

Dual Credit – an opportunity for student to receive both high school and college credit for the same learning experience. (This may also be applicable to middle a high school).

  • ELO Team – a group of individuals who work collaboratively with the student to develop a customized learning experience based on his/her particular interest, passion, goals, or desired outcomes. The team may include any/all of the following individuals.
  • School Principal (or designee) – The Principal has the ultimate authority to grant credit for ELOs. They also handle ELO appeals as needed. The Principal usually attends ELO students’ final presentations. (Also see Supportive Administration below).


  • Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) Coordinator – the school personnel who is responsible for the ELO Program. They work with the ELO Team to develop and execute ELOs, develops working relationships, and is the liaison between Community Mentors and the school, (Also see ELO Coordinator below).


  • Certified Educator or Personnel/Cooperating Teachers – the school educator or individual who is responsible for the collaborative development of the ELO proficiencies, learning activities, and required assessments, meeting with the student for progress on proficiencies, assessing formative and summative assignments, and making recommendations for the credit the student achieves. This may be the ELO Coordinator or other members of the ELO Team.


  • Special Education staff – typically a Special Education Case Manager, transition coordinator and paraprofessional working with a student with disabilities. This team member is responsible for ensuring the team is aware of IEP goals, academic accommodations and/or modifications, and IEP/504 Plan accommodations. They are also responsible for sharing information pertinent to the student and provides assistance/resources needed to promote student success.


  • English Language Learners (ELL) Educator – Where applicable, an ELL Educator may be part of the ELO Team. Their role is to monitor any accommodations that are needed in response to the student’s language abilities and needs.
  • Parents/Family/Guardian – must give consent to the ELO if the student is under 18. The parent/family is invited to provide valuable additional information to the ELO plan and is asked to stay active and involved during the ELO.


  • Community Mentor – the expert in the field who agrees to work with the student, provide a safe environment for the student to learn, assist in the development and implementation of the ELO plan, and assist in the assessment of the ELO.

Emotional Intelligence – is the ability to recognize emotions, understand what emotions are communicating, and realize how emotions affect other people. It also involves perception of others: when how someone feels understood, this allows one to manage relationships more effectively (Mindtools, 2015).

Essential Question – motivate students and drive the learning. It can help shift students toward ownership of learning. They can be thoughtful, provoking, and philosophical – and they should never have a simple answer that can be easily looked up online or answered from another source (Beyond the Classroom, n.d.).

Executive Functioning Skills – include regulation and control of cognitive processes including working memory, reasoning and problem-solving as well as planning and execution.

Experiential Learning – any authentic learning that supports students in applying their knowledge and conceptual understanding to real-world problems or situations that can take place at school or in the community resulting in:

  • A deepening of knowledge through repeatedly acting and then reflecting on this action
  • The development of skills through practice and reflection
  • The construction of new understandings when placed in novel situations
  • The extension of learning as students bring learning back to the classroom.

Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) – customized learning experience based on a student’s interest or passion designed for the primary acquisition of knowledge and skills through instruction or study outside of the traditional classroom methodology (any time, place, pace).

Formative Assessments – a wide variety of methods that teachers use to evaluate student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. The information collected during formative assessments is used to improve the teaching and learning process as it is taking place.

Individual Education Plan – The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a formalized plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability receives specialized instruction and related services. These plans include federal and state mandates.

Individualized/Differentiated learning – is a process of tailoring a student’s academic learning based on curriculum, instructional, assessment, environmental, or behavioral needs and/or challenges. Instruction, services, or additional designed supports may take place in the general classroom or in a different classroom located within the school.

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) – a learning process through questions generated by the interests, curiosities, and experiences of the learner.

Mastery – a high level of skill and knowledge in a particular course of study and the minimum level that a student must have and be able to demonstrate. Often, mastery is referred to as a student being “proficient” in the identified competency.

Next Generation Learning: 1) Personalizing learning; 2) Comprehensive systems of learning supports; 3) World- class knowledge and skills; 4) Performance-based learning; 5) Anytime, everywhere opportunities; and 6) Authentic student voice

Personalized learning – a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are designed to make individual learning needs the primary consideration in important educational and instructional decisions to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. Students are the drivers of their learning.

Presentation (of learning) – a final summative assessment that is designed to assess a student’s ability to clearly communicate their learning during the ELO process to an authentic audience who are either expert or novice in the disciplines related to the ELO’s goals and/or Essential Question (EQ) identified in the plan.

Professional Learning (Professional Development) – are comprehensive and sustained learning experiences that promote professional skills, knowledge, attributes, positive attitudes and work ethics that directly impact and influence an educator and provide educators an opportunity to reflect on the professional practice, work together and share ideas, and strive to improve student outcomes.

Project-based learning (PBL) – a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process (investigate and respond) around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

Soft Skills – are a cluster of employability personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that speak to worker’s interpersonal skills and character. (See 21st Century Skills)

Student-centered learning (SCL) – (See Personalized Learning) A learning model that places the student in the center of the learning process where he/she influences the content, activities, materials, and pace of learning based on interest, passion, abilities, needs, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds. Well designed and implemented SCL can lead to increased motivation to learn, greater retention of knowledge, deeper understanding, and more positive attitudes towards the subject being taught (Collins & O’Brien, 2003). Student-centered learning ELO examples include:

  • Interest-driven ELOs are creative, highly personalized, beyond-the-classroom experiences
  • Student-support-driven ELOs are flexible responses to students’ academic or social support needs.
  • Integration-driven ELOs bring existing programming under the ELO tent

Summative Assessments – used to evaluate student learning progress, academic achievement, and skill acquisition at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year.

Work Study Skills – Behaviors that enhance learning achievement and promote a positive work ethic such as, but not limited to, listening and following directions, accepting responsibility, staying on task, completing work accurately, managing time wisely, showing initiative, and being cooperative. (See 21st Century Skills)