No More Best Practices

Those of us engaged in e-Education have a difficult time using various terms and words consistently and accurately. Therefore, we have a Best Practices Highway Sign - Next Exithard time communicating with others and they have a hard time understanding what the heck we’re talking about.

My term for today is “best practices.” It sort of makes me crazy every time I hear this because the practices are not always very good, let alone the BEST!! “Best practices” seems to be very egotistical and most likely just dead wrong. During many of my presentations I’ve made a remark something like this: “Every time I hear the phrase ‘best practices,’ I flip a little switch in my brain that converts the phrase into ‘practices that don’t totally suck out loud.’” That’s very different from “best,” and certainly more accurate.

Unfortunately, some people don’t like it when I use my favorite word (suck), so I’ve been trying to curb that urge.  For a while I found myself saying “good practices,” but that also bugs me, although a bit less than “best.” I always feel as though I’m comparing appliances at Sears – Good, Better, Best (I have no idea if they still do that, but they did about 40 years ago).

From this point forward, I am going to try to use the term “effective practices.” Unless, of course, the practices haven’t been effective and Best Practices Road Sign - Turn Around, you missed them completely.then I’ll call them something else. Effective practices sends me the message that these practices or methods have been tried and been found to be useful or worthwhile. Doesn’t say they’re the most effective; just that they have been at least somewhat effective. Also indicates that there can be several different practices that are effective, but there should only be ONE best – and I doubt that anyone has discovered that one just yet. Especially in an emerging field such as e-Education. But just in case you are the best, and you’ve discovered the best practice: More Power to Ya!!

Now let’s continue to document, to share, and to celebrate our effective practices.

(Graphics are my own. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.)

9 Responses

  1. You’ve come up with a great concept, Barry. I hope it takes off.

  2. I like it! Also like “promising practices”.

  3. Terri, I think promising practices is a very good term to use – especially in those cases where you have an idea but don’t really have any evidence yet that the idea will prove to be effective.

    That’s another thing I’ve seen too much of – calling something a best practice when in fact they’re just starting to implement it. They have no results to indicate that the thing is anything close to good or best.

    Effective practices are those things that started out as promising practices and then were actually proven to be worthwhile and beneficial. BD

  4. Barry, I agree with you. In fact, we at SPC have stopped using Best Practices and have been using Effective instead. It makes perfect sense. As we all know in eLearning, there is no one way to accomplish things but maybe there is enough research that shows that some things are more effective than others.

  5. I think “best practices” has come to mean something like “the best we know of,” or “see? we’re doing our….” Whether we use effective or best, what we need is more and sounder evidence. We need not a better label but a more serious commitment to methods of inquiry in practice. I’d say.

  6. Very good. Quantified, tested, peer reviewed as better then other practices makes for an effective practice with promise. Thanks for keeping the chaff from sliding by.

  7. I worked for the Pa. Dept. of Ed.. We offered “research-based effective practices” (and we stuck to it!) If it wasn’t research based – we didn’t endorse or train on it.

  8. […] No More Best Practices […]

  9. You’re right. I hadn’t even thought of it before, but the phrase is trite and note well used.

    I hope that recognition won’t stop the search for best practices, or even just interesting or different practices we might use to make things work differently and, we hope, better.

    For some reason I’m reminded of a presentation at a conference of the Computer-Aided Manufacturing – International group (CAM-I) several years ago. A research talked about how he’d interviewed about 30 CEOs of companies that had done spectacular turnarounds, asking each for his or her formula for making such changes in a company. The researcher was getting pretty high agreement on certain steps to be taken, and when. On about the 28th interview there were some problems with the sound recorders, and they took a break for some coffee. Over coffee the CEO mentioned he wished he had had the list before he started the changes in his company, because it would have saved a lot of time, frustration, money, and probably a few careers. The researcher asked for explanation, and the guy explained that had he known which steps to do, when, the changes could have been done earlier. “But, I thought that’s what I asked you?” “No, you asked what I’d recommend to other CEOs. We didn’t have any idea of those steps going in, and we just fumbled along for several years. . .”

    At the conference the researcher told us he called each of his previous interview subjects, and to a person they said they’d talked about how they thought change ought to go, not what they had done, which was something completely different.

    In short, while they talked what they regarded as “best practices,” they spoke from a yen to idealism, and not from experience. Their experience was something else altogether.

    I’m also reminded of the flight service guy who was benchmarking food service on the Orient Express. A problem on airplanes was what to do with the hot coffee grounds, once the coffee was brewed. The flight service guy noted it was not a problem on the train. The train steward demonstrated how he just took the coffee grounds and tossed them out an open window of the train. Needless to say, you can’t do that on an airplane. So, was it not a “best practice?”

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