What is best practice? Being in education, a great deal of attention is paid to “Best Practice.” What I find so intriguing is that “Best Practice” changes. Data-driven instruction is a current “Best Practice.” But what if my data is wrong? There are others, but doesn’t “BEST” imply just one which is THE BEST? Who decides what is “Best Practice”? And is it BEST for all students in all schools in all states and all grades of all cultures? Does it work for all teachers? All administrators?
I believe that best practice can be different in different classrooms, different districts, different states, different schools, and with different teachers. It might depend on the teacher, or the neighborhood, or the make-up of the particular population, or myriad other things. What works for me in teaching students what they need to be successful is my “Best Practice”. What works for Julie, or Sue, or Ian, or Pat may be different. Subject matter will drive instruction as well as teacher personalities. Delivery matters, reception matters. What criteria is used to determine “Best Practice”? Who decides what criteria a practice must fulfill in order to be considered BEST? Is there a rubric that is followed to determine BEST?
Each time a new “Best Practice” comes along, there is the oooohing and aaaaahing over the sparkly shiny newness of it. Everyone wants to be close to it, to show how well it fits them. It is important to examine any new idea, practice or method critically before assigning it the title of “Best Practice”. Every “Best Practice” has elements that demand attention and adoption or adaptation. Every “Best Practice” has threads that are thinner and less sturdy. By looking at the elements which make up a “Best Practice” one can tease out those threads that are robust and full and should be added to one’s toolbox. The threads that aren’t helpful in holding a “Best Practice” together should be thrown out or altered to support the best parts of the practice.
Many times when a new practice comes along, it is truly an evolution or conglomeration of other “Best Practices”. This isn’t a bad thing! I think the more times a past “Best Practice” is mutated into a newer version is a testament to its “Bestness”. Each “Best Practice” like any practice should always be examined critically and used judiciously. “Best Practice” should not be limiting and yet it often is. Too often we are caught up in the newness or “bestness” of the practice and let go of practices that are solid, time-proven, and just good for kids. Our practices should always always have students at the heart of them. If adopting a “Best Practice” does not fit the teacher, it will hold them back, deplete their kid-heart energy and not live up to the superlative of “BEST”. Best Practice can only be as good or as best as the situation and people allow. Many “Best Practices” have been thrown by the wayside and yet still have much gold in them. It is incombent upon educational leaders to support “Best Practice” within the context of: environment, teacher, grade, culture, individual students, the heartbeat of the school, its students, and its vision. Supply all the tools available and never give up working to help all find the best fit for them as well as growing that fit over time and through “New Best Practices”.
This gives me pause to consider that perhaps a toolbox of “Good Practices” is enough. Collect them, examine them, take them apart and retool them, mix the pieces and parts, try them out. There is no one practice that is best for all. Practices should continue to grow and mutate, build on themselves, and openly steal from others. All in the name of what is great for getting the lesson or message across.