We Can Do Better Than “Best Practices”

Credit: iStock.com/ferrantraite
Credit: iStock.com/ferrantraite

Back in 2008, I took part in a national task force whose goal was to plan for the future of the teaching of psychology. I led a group of faculty considering how teaching methods and approaches would change and evolve. As an opening activity, I asked the group members to make a list of all the teaching approaches they had heard of or used that seemed like good methods. Altogether, we generated a list of well over 100 different methods and technologies, most of which one or more of us had used at one time or another. Contemplating the list, I wondered how many of these methods could be effective if the circumstances were favorable. I concluded that all of them could be successful in the right conditions. Furthermore, I realized that all of them might fail if implemented improperly or used inappropriately. Thus, the idea of “best practices,” in which one or a select few methods is seen as better than all others regardless of circumstance, has never made sense to me. In this essay, I argue that the concept of best practices is not only wrong but also blocks progress in advancing teaching effectiveness.


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