By Marwa Kotb.
How do educators approach skillful teaching? Four core assumptions Brookfield proposed and explained in details in chapter two of his textbook “The Skillful Teacher”.
Assumption # 1: Skillful teacher is whatever helps students learn. The term “whatever” used by the author in his assumption do not only refer to the usual themes of educators’ tasks used to support their students but also to include doing what some teachers might consider unprofessional. He stated a personal interesting practice based on this assumption. As teachers Repeatedly face a group of students that have no interest in their courses, Brookfield handle this situation by organizing “a class alumni panel” (2015 , p.18) of students that were initially highly resistant to learning in previous similar course but later they found out that the course was of good benefit for them. The meeting takes place on the first day of a new course, and after introducing the panel he walks out of the class so that new students talk freely without feeling monitored. According to the author though it is hard and improper to leave the class unsupervised at early time of the course but he freed up himself of any inhibiting task for the sake of helping students to learn. I liked the link between thinking and doing presented by the author to attest the benefits of practices based on his assumption. The strategy given to address the problem of students’ resistance is no doubt suggested based on personal experience and that what makes it simple and relevant. However, not all teachers are risk takers to that extent and can deal with consequences in case of strategy failure.
Assumption # 2: Skillful teacher adopt a critically reflective stance towards their practice. Critical reflection is a “meaning-making process (Dewey, 1916/1944; Schön, 1983; Rodgers, 2002)” as cited in (The Centre for Teaching Excellence, n.d.). According to Brookfield it is “central to skillful teaching” (2015, p.21) for three reasons. First to decide if educators’ actions are valid through the lenses of students, colleagues, literature and autobiography. Second as “critical thinking is a high priority outcome of higher education” (The Centre for Teaching Excellence, n.d), thus showing students how educators is using it to enhance their own teaching will encourage them to engage in the same process. And finally without reflection, experience alone might inhibit our growing and that is very common to faculty in mid or late career, at this point reflection “can re-energize our teaching” (2015, p.21). I support this assumption the most among the others discussed in the chapter, I believe we need to make time for reflection, it could be a mean to find answers to questions such as what is happening during one day of a class or even through a longer period, or it could take us deeper than that to articulate where are we heading to and evaluate the routes we selected to achieve our career goals (Weimer, 2011, November 4).
Assumption # 3: Teachers need a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers’ actions. Here Brookfield draws our attention for the second time to the importance of knowing how students are doing in our courses to be able to adjust our teaching accordingly, he proposes that students’ responses should be anonymous, so the comments tend to be more honest and straightforward. In addition, everyone gets to provide feedback without the discomfort of speaking in front of their peers. I found the best parts of his strategy is that he publically discusses students’ responses on his actions as well as the continuity of the process which will facilitate to find out the course potential pitfalls at early stages and offer solutions to them.
Assumption # 4: Collage students of any age should be treated as adults. Though “Research has shown that human brain circuitry is not mature until the early 20s” (The Harvard Health Blog, 2005) and judgmental neurons are still growing in college students. But the author ask educators to treat their young students as adults, I found the phrase “authoritative and not authoritarian” (p.24) brilliantly demonstrates the kind of control that educators should utilize in the relationship with their students, I agree with Brookfield that respect is crucial and students ideas and opinions should be addressed and valued, in my opinion respect dominates all characteristics of skillful teaching and creates an inclusive and safe learning environment for everyone.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.) .San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
The Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.) Critical Reflection. WaterLoo University. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/planning-courses-and-assignments/course-design/critical-reflection
Weimer, M. (2014, January 30). Making Time for Reflection. FACULTY FOCUS. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/making-time-for-reflection/