This is a comment on the PIDP 3260 textbook, ‘The Skillful Teacher’ by Stephen D. Brookfield.
In chapter 2, Brookfield outlines 4 core assumptions of skillful teaching, and supports them with experiences and his own classroom research.
The 4 assumptions are:
Assumption # 1: Skillful Teaching Is Whatever Helps Students Learn
Assumption # 2: Skillful Teachers Adopt a Critically Reflective Stance Toward Their Practice
Assumption # 3: Teachers Need a Constant Awareness of How Students Are Experiencing Their Learning and Perceiving Teachers’ Actions
Assumption # 4: College Students of Any Age Should Be Treated as Adults
#1- Brookfield explains that although this assumption may seem almost silly in it’s obvious value, it often doesn’t happen. As teachers, we can become stale, and redundant, using material and delivery that has ‘worked’ for years. To really teach in a way that helps students learn requires work on behalf of the teacher. We all know that what works for one student may not work for the next, but having variety and diversity in our delivery is important. Thinking outside the box, and then going outside the box, even when it seems ‘unprofessional’ or amateur may do our students a world of good. In fact, not exploring ideas and delivery that we haven’t used before could be doing them a huge disservice.
#2- Here, Brookfield explains that by looking through 4 different ‘lenses’, we can perform ‘critical reflection’. Which is to assess our assumptions for accuracy. The lenses we look through are from the student’s and colleague’s perspectives, as well as through reading material based on education and finally our own learning experiences. Brookfield argues that ‘viewing our classroom choices and decisions through these four lenses increases the chances that our actions will be based on assumptions that are accurate and valid. Actions taken on the basis of such assumptions are, by definition, informed.’
#3- Brookfield is an advocate for something called ‘The Critical Incident Questionnaire’. This is a tool he has used to gain insight as to what students are actually thinking; what they feel is valuable in the classroom, what they feel is wasted time, etc. The key to this tool is that it is anonymous. Students feel safe providing feedback, and start to trust the instructor has their best interests in mind, when that feedback is discussed by the instructor honestly and head on, and changes are implemented. Or, there is a response and reason as to why a change may not be implemented.
#4- Students of any college age should be treated as adults is my favorite of the core assumptions. I absolutely believe this is true and Brookfield summed up my overarching thought process by quoting ‘Freire’s terms (Horton and Freire, 1990), they want their teachers to be authoritative, not authoritarian.’ The teacher’s treatment of students says a lot about the teacher, and students need to know that a teacher has their best interests in mind. It will not matter what the subject is, they will not be inclined to learn if they don’t feel there is relevance, or good intentions from the teacher that what they are learning has some bearing and influence on their future successes (aka entry level jobs after college). Feelings and associations of resentment or indifference to the subject matter will not serve the student, and it will just leave the instructor feeling frustrated. If we are educating adult students so that they can obtain adult jobs out in the real adult world, what better way to assist with that than to start treating them as they will be treated by an employer or any other colleague in their field.