Moving from Best Practices to Effective Practices Tied to Goals

Teacher and students discussing topic

Brad Ermeling, principal research scientist for Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network, has been studying educator learning and effectiveness, looking at systems and resources that support educators in their efforts to continuously improve teaching and enhance student learning outcomes. One of his major areas of research is around best practices. In a recent blog post, The Elusive Search for Best Practices, and in an article on Educational Leadership, Brad, James Hiebert, and Ronald Gallimore explain the pitfalls of adopting best practices. Instead they suggest that educators move from imitating best practices to thinking and talking about effective practices that are tied to specific goals.

Continuing the discussion about his research on best practices, Brad talks with TeacherCast host Jeff Bradbury explaining what he has found and ways teachers can shift their thinking to improve their effectiveness. Brad said, “In my research I have noticed that teachers are drawn to the term ‘best practice’ and they start to look for things that are labeled as a best practice. This can be problematic because the word is so poorly defined, and the idea of a best practice doesn’t necessarily lead teachers to things that will be effective in the classroom.”

He continues, “The fact of labeling something as ‘best’ already indicates that alternatives have been eliminated, and we believe that it’s important to continually study and work on improvement and not assume that anything has reached the best level.” In this 20-minute video cast, Brad gives great examples of what he means by avoiding the application of the same practice across all types of learning goals. The conversation also covers topics such as: what teachers can do to improve their effectiveness, professional learning communities, and how this line of thinking is technology agnostic. On a personal note, I love the story Brad tells close to the end about his experience as a teacher in Japan and how teachers there approach improving their skills.

You can read more of Brad’s research on the Research & Innovation Network website.