Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best Practice? and other phrases & words we use ...

A few comments about the words we use.

One of the terms/words we often use in education is 'best practice' ... I have grown to bristle a bit at that one. I know it is just a term we use, however, it gives the impression that there is a set of such practices, you know, the best ones - ones that always work, right? I don't think so, there might be promising practices, or practices that often work ... but I think it is presumptuous to believe that there are best ones. Educators know that context is important. What works in one class or with certain students will not with others. In fact, something that works one day in a certain class may not in the same class on a different day. There are more of these misleading terms we use, most often we know what the person means, but we should try to be more accurate - or misconceptions will occur. In my dissertation, I found that defining 'social media' is also not a clearly defined term - and clarity is pretty important in a dissertation, as I am finding out, what might be clear to one person, raises questions for another - fun!

Oh - one more, the saying that the technology is 'just a tool'. Now I know what folks mean by this, I say it too, however, I think we need to be aware that the tech is much more than just a tool - it can change the way we do things. Cars changed our world in so many ways, computers have too, the way we communicate, research, and create - and they change - or could change - what we do in the classroom. I agree with those who say we need to start with pedagogy, but the tech is not just a mere tool. I don't mean that in a deterministic way - we do have control over how we use the tools, but the tools do affect us. As McLuhan said; 'We shape our tools and thereafter, our tools shape us.'


  1. Hey Mike. How goes? Interesting post about "best practice." I did a math SAGE session this past fall asking the question "What is the best practice?", with best practice italicized in the session title. It was a session that purposely did not offer silver bullet solutions for teaching, except for the teacher. The best practice I was advocating was keeping up with current innovation for classroom practice and doing action research, and not necessarily in that order. Teacher best practice has to, in my opinion, involve teachers doing their own problem solving, case by case. Like you said, students are different and what works for one may not work for another. Not everyone is like a linear function!

  2. Hi Gary. Yes, best practice is what works with the students you have at a particular time. Nice to hear from you!