Be Skeptical about "Best Practices"

You always need to think for yourself as you make your own way online. Someone else's "best practices" (including mine!) might not the best for you or for your students. [next]

Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.

Additional comments:

I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant when I saw the phrase "best practices in online adult education" in the Upgrading Online conference tagline, but I was excited to get a chance to participate in this event, so I gladly said yes. At the same time, I really do want to emphasize that all my "you can" and "you should" and "you need to" statements in this slides are just about what works for me and works my students. YMMV: your milage may vary!

Here's a piece from ASCD that addresses some of the many problems with the phrase "best practices" — Best Practice: The Enemy of Better Teaching — and while I don't agree with everything in the article, I do agree wholeheartedly with this concluding statement: "Finally, research and practical experience suggest that professional development focused on continual improvement of teaching is more effective than imitation of best practices. The "best practice" culture tends to search for and celebrate outlier teachers. But better teaching doesn't come from imitating what star teachers do. Better teaching is built by steady, relentless, continual improvement—one lesson and one unit at a time."

So, yes, I'm an outlier teacher (at least at my school), and I like to share my ideas with others. In fact, I feel compelled to do so! But at the same time, I developed my methods through that "steady, relentless, continual improvement," day by day, semester by semester, year by year... and I am glad to say that I keep on learning new things every day and every semester and every year. In fact, I feel like I am learning even more rapidly now than I did at first because I have gotten better at that process of self-evaluation. So, yes,I learn a lot from looking at what other teachers do, but the most important work comes from my own experimentation, relying on the crucial feedback I get from my students in every class!

This is another one of the LatinLOLCatsDubium sapientiae initium. Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.

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