The Fallacy of Best Practices

A Principal's Reflections

by Eric Sheninger

Apr 21, 2024

The article "The Fallacy of Best Practices" by Eric Sheninger, featured in "A Principal's Reflections" blog, challenges the prevailing education system's fixation on standardized "best practices." It argues for a shift towards contextual effectiveness in educational strategies to foster innovation and adaptability. Here’s a detailed summary designed for educators:

**Critique of Best Practices:**
Sheninger begins by critiquing the reliance on best practices in education, which are often viewed as foolproof formulas guaranteeing success. This approach, according to him, simplifies complex educational dynamics to a one-size-fits-all solution, stifling creativity and innovation. The dynamic nature of learning environments—shaped by evolving industries, technologies, and societal needs—makes the application of static best practices inadequate and often obsolete.

**Advocacy for Effectiveness:**
Instead of adhering to rigid methodologies, Sheninger advocates for effectiveness, which prioritizes achieving desired outcomes through adaptable and context-specific strategies. This approach encourages:
- **Experimentation and Innovation:** Schools should foster a culture where educational strategies are not merely replicated but thoughtfully designed to meet the unique needs of their community.
- **Research-Based Pedagogy and Data-Driven Decisions:** Utilizing current research and data to inform practices ensures that teaching methods are not only modern but also empirically supported.
- **Tailored Solutions:** Like marketers who adjust campaigns to better suit audience characteristics and platform trends, educators should customize their teaching strategies to better fit student needs and the latest pedagogical insights.

**Downsides of Best Practices:**
Best practices are typically derived from generalized data and may not reflect current realities or the unique challenges and strengths of individual schools. They lack the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances or innovate beyond the conventional. This could potentially lead to stagnant educational environments where students are ill-prepared for future challenges.

**Implementation of Effectiveness:**
To implement an effectiveness-focused approach, schools need to:
- **Understand Unique Contexts:** Identifying specific strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities within a school can guide more personalized and effective strategies.
- **Foster Autonomy and Innovation:** Encouraging educators to deviate from traditional methods can lead to more relevant and impactful learning experiences.
- **Invest in Support Structures:** Continuous professional development, evidence collection, and success tracking can help schools refine their approaches dynamically.

The shift from best practices to effectiveness not only enhances the relevance and impact of educational strategies but also empowers educators to utilize their expertise fully. This transition requires a paradigm shift from rigid adherence to predefined paths to a more flexible, innovative approach that respects the unique qualities of each educational setting.

Educators are encouraged to read the full text for a deeper insight into breaking free from the constraints of outdated methodologies and embracing adaptive, results-oriented practices. The full article can be accessed at Eric Sheninger's blog: [The Fallacy of Best Practices](

This summary emphasizes the need for a nuanced approach that values contextual effectiveness over standardized best practices, aiming to better prepare students for the complexities of the modern world.



Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model].

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