The Thinking Teacher: Best practice or next practice

Thinking Teacher Social Media Posts.007

If we want thinking children, we need thinking teachers. This is the premise of my book ‘The Thinking Teacher’, in this series of posts I am sharing some of the key ideas from the book and the thinking behind them.

This chapter was inspired by some thinking I blogged about some time ago, which I expanded and reconsidered for the book. The original post is below:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
– Alan Kay

For many years the teaching profession has been familiar with the term ‘best practice’; sharing what is working well in one setting so that it might be implemented in another. It is happening within schools, between schools at conferences and TeachMeets, and online through both ‘top-down’ websites and ‘bottom up’ blogs from teachers.

The first head I worked with, Neil Hopkin, used to talk about needing to replace the quest for ‘best practice’ with the search for ‘next practice’ (Hopkin, 2010, Deakin Crick et al, 2011). I always used to think this meant that aiming for today’s best practice resulted in achieving the best of yesterday. By aiming to invent the future rather than re-hash the past you would create the ‘current’ best practice.

It has taken me three years to realise it is more complicated than that, for my initial conception implies that one day you will invent the future and reach your goal; get to the ‘next’ and stop.

Recently I have realised that ‘next practice’ is not about the goal, it is about the journey. A commitment to ‘next practice’ is a commitment to continually develop what you are doing in the context in which it is situated. In most cases this is going to take a fair bit of learning from others, of looking at the current ‘best practice’, but fundamentally I think it is not about emulation but about a research based approach to constant evaluation and development.

‘Next practice’ is a commitment to a process not an end product. In moving from ‘best practice’ to ‘next practice’ we acknowledge that the best solutions come from development, not imposition. Perhaps a process of development that never stops should be our real goal.

 

More in ‘The Thinking Teacher’, which is available now in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon UKAmazon US and on the iBooks store.

More posts on ideas from ‘The Thinking Teacher’ here.

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