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Clearly Worded

Content area standards must effectively communicate what students should know and be able to do (Izumi, 1999; Lerner, et. al, 2012). The language used within standards and indicators should be clear.  Language that is unclear or vague cannot communicate directly the content that should be taught and learned. To help clarify standards, optional examples within parentheses (sometimes expressed as an “e.g.”) may be included to provide clarity around learning expectations. 

Clearly worded content area standards begin with action verbs that identify the level of cognitive demand expected of students.  Standards and indicators should be written concisely and include only one expectation within a single indicator. Including more than one expectation within an indicator may confuse readers as to the intended focus and may confound assessment if a student demonstrates mastery on the only part of the indicator. For example, an indicator that requires students to demonstrate balance and endurance during physical activity may be problematic if a student has balance, but not endurance, or vice versa.

The language used in content area standards should also be free of word or expressions that are difficult for educators to understand (Rutherford & Boehm, 2004). Technical terms should be avoided; if technical terms are used, a glossary should be provided. Content area standards can, and perhaps should in some cases, use technical terminology to explicate accurately and precisely what students should know and be able to do. However, when technical terms are used, they should be explained in such a way that they can be understood by those who do not have a technical background in the field.


This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.