Process as a Best Practice Published 2007-08-28 under ,

Years ago, I was involved in a project that included the compilation of "best practices" by high school U.S. History teachers. The intention was for each teacher to "publish" the best practice and then have other teachers offer comments. Teachers in this project were asked to review other best practices and write (as a comment) how they might adapt the practice to their classroom and the potentially unique needs of their students.

I was involved in the project as a consultant and focused my attention on the information architecture of the best practices and their associated comments. I could not see beyond the capturing, organizing and disseminating of this content. This was before the proliferation of blogging tools and content management systems that would make this task trivial. Regardless whether it was the technical complexities that blinded me, I did a disservice to the project by focusing on the end product.

In hindsight, this project was not about creating an inventory of best practices, but the process of describing your own best practice(s) and reflecting on how to adapt others' practices to meet your needs. The true value of the exercise comes from identifying a practice that you consider good enough to be called a best practice. It requires you to reflect on what you do, what constitutes a best practice and how to best articulate what you do to form a best practice that others can adapt. It also requires you to evaluate a practice that has been labeled as best in relation to how you teach and your classroom needs.

In summary, I got caught up in the "deliverable" and did not see the importance of the process. As teachers, we often fall victim to the lure of the final product. In some cases, it is easier to evaluate the final product than it is to evaluate (or even monitor) the process. If you have ever given a multiple-choice test, you know that grading is a breeze where as gaining insight into how the students obtained their answers is next to impossible.

In other cases, the excitement of seeing the final product overshadows the process that was involved in creating it. I remember a group of students who gave an outstanding presentation on their roller coaster they created for our AP Calculus class. I was so impressed with the presentation and their multi-media materials, that I was blinded to the fact that the group took shortcuts in putting together the project and there was a clear lack of equity in individual contribution resulting in some students getting very little from the project.

I mention all of this as it exposes some thoughts I have for educators.

  • Value the process as much as the result
  • Identify ways that expose the process
  • Get your students to realize the importance of the process