The Mistake Of Chasing Best Practice

So many teachers now go on about sharing best practice. But what is this mythical beast they are apparently sharing, tearing and feeding off?

But best practice is something we should not be chasing or sharing. If everyone adopted best practice for something then it would be the median practice, conformity and just collective stupidity.

Ermeling, Hiebert and Gallimore (2015) say that best practice is the enemy of better teaching and that what we should be doing is “focusing on continual improvement of teaching” rather than imitating best practices. They argue that there is no consensus on what this ‘best’ is supposed to be and it is nothing more than a label that “suggests a definitive superiority to alternative practices”.

Research and scientific studies are far from clear cut and so to describe them as best is a bit far-fetched. A healthier approach would be for us to discuss good practices rather than the so-called best.

Best practices are associated with strategies that someone had success implementing but they certainly don’t work everywhere.

Schools are complex and chaotic places where well-defined and clear-cut approaches don’t work. Mullay (2017) says it perfectly,

The problem is that it is rarely the case that a situation has one best approach. It is far more likely that there are several possible approaches, and the most viable one depends upon the situation, context and desired outcome.

If your school is to grow and advance, you must challenge convention and incorporate your own experience and culture into the process based on your context and circumstances. This involves weeding out your greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities or repairing your weakest practices and turning them into strengths.

Developing your own practices are what works for you and include introspection, research (your own), experience and reflection.

Best practice has hoodwinked many schools into thinking they need to behave in a certain way and do particular things. Schools try on the shoes of best practice, walk round in them and ask passers-by “Do you like my shoes?” only to find they give you blisters because they don’t fit and aren’t good for walking long distances.

Adopting a best practice that is wrong for your school can cause a considerable amount of learning damage.

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