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Posts Tagged ‘practices

Here is a tweeted headline that could have been relevant ten years ago.

The Yellow Pages were irrelevant even then. It seems to have taken a newspaper a decade to realise or admit it.

It sometimes takes teachers in schools just as long, if not longer, to realise and admit that some of their practices are losing relevance.

The aptly named Yellow Pages can also mean that the medium is showing their age. The problem with irrelevant practices is that the signs are not as obvious. It takes critical reflection to spot the yellowing edges of bad habits and pages of unquestioned tradition.

I could stop blogging and some of my reflections will keep getting daily views.

One of them is my thoughts on “best practices” as a result for searches on “another way to say best practices”. Depend on where and how you search, it might be the second on the list of results.

If you are looking to do something differently or better, why are you looking for another way to say or do the same thing?

A quote attributed — some say wrongly — to Einstein is this: Insanity is doing the same thing differently over and over again and expecting different results. [Google image search]

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. -- Einstein

Another quote from Einstein might hammer the point home: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Whether Einstein actually said these words is immaterial. We should not need a famous person to tell us what we know and experience every day at work and school.

If ignorance of the issue is not the barrier to change, then inertia is. Battle entrenched culture, stubborn leadership, reluctant individuals. But do not find a different way to do the same thing. This adds to the problem instead of solving it.

On the surface, this STonline article lets readers know that some tutors are taking their roles more seriously. They are seeking professional development to stay current.

Read the report more critically and “best practices” could raise an alarm. While there might be such practices in industry and business, we should be concerned if they belong in the areas of schooling and education.

I have reflected on why “best practices” is a misnomer, is a bad set of practices, and should not be co-opted in education.

In the context of tuition, can there really be “best” practices when there are different kinds of tuition? Is the group spearheading this move going to address all the different needs and contexts?

The tuition industry in all its forms has its critics and cynics. While it should be associated with help for all who need it, segments are also associated with highly selective agencies and entry tests. While it could focus on remediation or personalisation, it is also known for shortcuts and formularisation.

I am not advocating a lack of standards or guidelines. I am worried about the answer to this question: What if the “best practices” includes what is undesirable in tuition as practiced here in Singapore?

Every day for the last four years, my reflection on “best” practices gets some views. My thoughts were incomplete so I wrote a follow-up in 2015 with links to others who had written about why “best” practices might be one of the worst ideas.

Unfortunately, that term persists.

This tweet is probably one of the best arguments against the term” “Best practices lose their effectiveness when we use them as an excuse to keep doing what we’ve been doing”.

In other words, what we might think as the best practices might create complacency and stop us from thinking about next practices. What is even better? What is truly creative and innovative? What is more efficient and effective?

There are a few of my blog entries that seem to get hits every day even though they are a few years old. One of them is “Alternative to ‘best’ practices?“.

That particular reflection was a series of a few. To provide some context, I am listing my thoughts on this contentious issue in today’s entry.

  1. 15 Sep 2012: There is no BEST practice (Contexts may not transfer)
  2. 17 Sep 2012: Alternative to “best” practices? (Contexts are different; best implies there is no need to get even better)
  3. 22 Jul 2014: Can practices be transmitted? (There is signal loss; not all signals are relevant or timely)
  4. 24 Sep 2014: Be wary of “best practices”: Slides 5-9 (Best for whom? Have you considered all contexts?)


Just Beware by MTSOfan, on Flickr
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I was not the first to write against “best practices” and I will not be the last. Here are a few other bloggers or authors who have been more articulate than me with their thoughts about this issue.

  1. The Sham of Best Practices by Larry Cuban
  2. Why Best Practices Don’t Work for Knowledge Work by Luis Suarez
  3. On Best Practices by Shelley Blake-Plock
  4. “Best Practice”—The Enemy of Better Teaching by Bradley Ermeling, James Hiebert, and Ronald Gallimore

Yesterday I asked if practices could be transmitted. Shortly after I read the forum letter that prompted that question, I experienced something at a fast food restaurant that made me question if practices can (or even should) be transplanted.

If you enter a Japanese eatery, you might be greeted with a welcome. I am quite sure that it works where it originated, but it was startling and strange to hear it at a burger joint. My guess was that the manager used to work at a Japanese eatery.

Often the people who shout the welcome parrot the greeting and they direct it no one in particular. There is no real welcome in their eyes or faces because they are just going through the motions. It does not seem to be in our DNA or culture.

We cannot simply transplant a practice that works well elsewhere without considering the context for its use.

So by all means attend sharing sessions or invest in study trips. But do not expect transplanted practices to work. It seems like common sense. The same common sense that has become a rare commodity among leaders, administrators, and policymakers.

The online Straits Times decided to feature something from My Paper (slow news day?) and in the Breaking News section no less.

The article? Kids’ errors posted online. A secondary school teacher posted “her students’ poor English usage in their assignments on her Facebook account.”

Of course people had a reaction to that. The article was careful to include the feedback from Stompers and MOE. And we know how, um, different those perspectives can be. (Several English lessons can be conducted on the article and their responses alone!)

My reaction is in the title of my entry, but I am not nonchalant about it.

There is nothing new about teachers doing this. Before Facebook there were blogs. Before blogs, there were personal Web sites and email. Before that teachers would compile these gems on paper.

The greater issue is why and how teachers do this. Are they doing this for a hearty laugh, privately I might add, among a community of practitioners? Are they also sharing these with students for the purpose of educating them instead of embarrassing them?

In either case, the paper medium used to restrict access to these gaffes. Blogs and Facebook are more public, hence the greater access and scrutiny. The public reacts to the published work but does not necessarily understand the teacher’s intentions.

Instead of reacting negatively to this event, I see this an opportunity to educate. Administrators and educators should not shy from Web 2.0 because it is an excellent platform for personal publishing and social networking. Informally it is also a platform for modelling values and practices.

In this case, how the teacher shared the examples is a key issue. If the examples were incriminating, then limit the posting to one or only an invited few. If the examples were educationally useful, then prepare them and the posting for public viewing. In the latter case, this could include clearly stating the intent, stripping the writing of all means of identifying the students, and maintaining a professional tone in the posting.

There may be a thin line in social media that divides when one is writing personally or professionally. But there is a line nonetheless. If you cross it, you deal with the circumstances.

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