“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.



New MOOCs starting this fall!

flickr photo by GotCredit http://flickr.com/photos/jakerust/16846023595 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by GotCredit http://flickr.com/photos/jakerust/16846023595 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Have you tried a MOOC yet?

MOOC stands for massive, open, online course. These free classes are an excellent way to learn something new or simply deepen your learning in a particular field.

In the coming weeks, you can explore our oceans with Future Learn or learn more about Professional Practices for English Language Teaching.

Options at EdX include the Science of Everyday Thinking and the Ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours.

Coursera includes Reasoning, Data Analysis, and Writing as well as Introduction to Finance: Valuation and Investing among their offerings.

You can explore the hundreds of offerings available through the four catalogues below:

1.  Future Learn

“We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.”

2. EdX 

“EdX offers interactive online classes and MOOCs from the world’s best universities, colleges and organizations. Online courses from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTx and many other universities. Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT” read more here.

3. Coursera

Coursera’s mission:  “We provide universal access to the world’s best education.

“Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free” read more here.

4. MOOC List

“What is MOOC List? MOOC List is an aggregator (directory) of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by different providers. MOOC List is a website where you can find free online courses (MOOCs) offered by the best universities around the world. We don’t give MOOCs. We don’t create MOOCs.”  Read more here.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to take an entire course. It’s okay to dip into several that sound interesting. Watch a video or two. See what you can learn!

Walking in their shoes makes all the difference!

Photo Credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via Compfight cc

Grant Wiggins has long been an advocate of hearing / seeing from students’ perspectives. During a UbD training with him a few years ago he brought in local students for participants to interview. That small sample of honest insight from a student was powerful for the group.

He recently had a guest post by a teacher who shadowed a student for a couple of days and was shocked by what she learned. As of last week the post had been read over 500,000 times!

“I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!” Continue reading the post here.