“Best Practice” — The Enemy of Better Teaching

flickr photo by blueraine_tigerseye http://flickr.com/photos/64182868@N00/406298362 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by blueraine_tigerseye http://flickr.com/photos/64182868@N00/406298362 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Educators banter the phrase “best practice” around easily.  But what if the focus on mimicking the so-called ‘best’ isn’t the most effective way for educators to improve?

Bradley A. Ermeling, James Hiebert and Ronald Gallimore wrote a thought-provoking piece in which they argue just that.

“Research and practical experience suggest that focusing on continual improvement of teaching is more effective than imitating best practices.”

“The term best practice is widely used in education by practitioners,researchers, politicians, and product advocates. “We believe in using best practices.” “Our teachers need more access to best practices.” “Our product is based on best practices.” These claims sound good, except there’s no consensus on what practices are “best.” Determining what qualifies a practice as best is no simple matter. 

Best suggests a definitive superiority to alternative practices; it’s a label based more on an appeal to authority than on research. As an iterative process of ongoing exploration and testing, research avoids definitive statements like “best practices.” Researchers treat skeptically the claim that a practice is broadly and generally the best because results of scientific studies are seldom so clear cut. At the very least, a claim of best practice needs to include caveats and a detailed accounting of the circumstances in which it was—and wasn’t—effective.” Read the entire article here.

 

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