The Skillful Teacher: Responding to Students’ Resistance to Learning


By Marwa Kotb.

The main reason for resistance to learning is “the fear of change” (Brookfield, 2015, p.213). The quote is linked to a recent personal experience when I decided to flip. After attending some online sessions on the flipped classrooms model. I was excited to experiment the trending approach. The preparation was not as complex as I imagined and luckily I found a whole host of quality materials by searching digital resource libraries (e.g., YouTube, Wikimedia Commons, Khan Academy, MERLOT, the National Science Digital Library, and the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science).

But as soon as I started implementing the new strategy, I found the change wasn’t welcomed nor appreciated by some of the students. They didn’t see any value of the model and come to class unprepared. For a moment I felt I should give up and get back to my comfort zone, but I addressed the issue by providing students with the rationale behind the pedagogical choice.

I believe the experience is common among educators, and resistance can deter them from ever trying new teaching models. In chapter seventeen, Brookfield suggested several teaching strategies to help respond to students’ resistance.  Among his recommendations was that educators should try to sort out the causes of resistance and decide if the resistance is justified (2015). Connecting those two advices to my experience, I realized that there was a primary cause for students’ resistance to flipped classroom. As most of these students just made their transition from high school to college, they are not prepared to take a greater control of their learning when they were suppose to spend more time outside the class preparing for the lecture independently. The author offered other useful suggestion I should have considered. First inviting “former resistors” (2015, p.229), in my case I could have asked students who experimented the model with my colleagues and found it beneficial to come over and talk about their learning experience. Second, is to “build a case for learning” (2015, p.234) which is showing students successful learning situations, in my case it would be a successful research or project done under the similar course circumstances inside or outside my institution. Third, not “to push too fast” (2015, p.235) as students sometimes need to pause to process information. Fourth, to accept that resistance is normal and confront it publically, and finally as students have the right to resist, no one can be forced to learn, the author suggest that educators must “try to limit the negative effects of resistance” (2015, p.237,) thus I should stick to the flipped classroom approach we agreed to utilize and no lectures during class time even if some students show up in class unprepared. Brookfield list is quite longer, I consider it a valuable source for teaching strategies on how to respond when students are pushing back.

It is very important to keep in mind that though preventing students’ resistance is educators’ ultimate goal , but we won’t be able to overcome resistance. We should work to contain it and mitigate its effects (Brookfield, 2015).


Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.) .San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


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