Our new and connected economy is hypercompetitive and constantly evolving. Therefore, we must reflect on and refine our teaching practices to ensure we are preparing our students. Particularly, there are three commonly used “best practices” that can become detrimental practices if not used appropriately.
1. “Think Alouds.” As in explicitly giving step by step directions on how to do something, instead of a focus on thinking processes. This malpractice solidifies the conception of there being the one way, the right way, or the perfect way of doing something. Yes, model and think aloud, but do it authentically, and don’t give the caveat of it being the way. Embed personal stories and examples of times when you thought something through and tackled the problem, but the outcome didn’t match your prediction. Creation and innovation aren’t birthed from immaculate exemplars, but from exploration, iterations, and imperfections.
2. Giving copious amounts of time to complete a project/activity. This may sound antithetical to more progressive trends in education, but it’s actually not. Yes, brainstorming requires open, unrestricted, and ample time for creative juices to flow. But once an idea is ready for action, it needs to be acted upon immediately. Our dynamic and connected economy is a competitive place with quick turnarounds on products and innovations. If you afford students with a safe, trusting, and “free to fail” environment, access to appropriate tools and resources, and an effective feedback structure (more on this below), you’ll be amazed at what students will deliver without wasted time.
3. Feedback that’s unidirectional and summative. You are the content expert and giving feedback to students is vital for student learning and growth. But feedback should be a loop and not a through-line. Actionable feedback (what is working and what isn’t) is immediate and not delayed. It is the human condition to naturally recoil in defense of feedback. Engage the feedback loop by allowing student-to-student feedback and even student-to-teacher feedback.
Tried and true practices become stagnant and ineffective if we don’t continually reflect, revise, and change. Our world is evolving, and so must our teaching practices.