Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Topic: Best Practices

10-second review: Author has decided that “Best Practices” are what works for each individual teacher—as opposed to the No Child Left Behind law that mandates “Best Practices” based on research. for all teachers of reading. The individual teacher has to make the judgment of “what works.” Which defines teachers as professionals.

Title: “Is It Time to Abandon the Idea of ‘Best Practices’ in the Teaching of English?” Peter Smagorinsky. English Journal (July 2009),15-22. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Comment: I think that Smagorinsky is reacting to the kinds of scripted lessons that seem to have been put in place following the No Child Left Behind law. His belief that teachers need to adapt “best practices” is another one of those ideas that seems to be just plain common sense. Long ago, I learned that borrowing an idea from a professional journal meant that I had to adapt the idea to the students with whom I worked. In fact, I learned that I needed to try the idea myself on myself before I would attempt to use it with my students. “Best Practices” are and should remain recommendations. I think I would call them “Promising Practices.”

As a side note, the National Council of Teachers of English has been defining “best practices” for years with its resolutions, statements and guidelines. Obviously, teachers must be informed of and reflect on these ideas. They are produced by thoughtful, experienced teachers. But once again, teachers need to adapt these ideas to the classes and individuals with whom they work. The guidelines for teaching writing (2004), for example, state that the conventions are important so that readers’ expectations are met and readers are not distracted by “mistakes.” But how to teach the conventions is an issue. Formal grammar? Functional grammar? Teachers have to decide what will work with their classes. RayS.

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