The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

Brookfield presents 4 core assumptions of skillful teaching:

  • “Skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn”
  • “Skillful teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practise.”
  • “The most important knowledge that skillful teachers need to do good work is a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers’ actions”
  • “College students of any age should be treated as adults” (2015).

What I find interesting about these is the acknowledgement that our learners should be treated as adults. While it seems obvious, I think sometimes it is easy for us to forget. We may find an interesting teaching activity and want to try it out in class because it looks like fun, but may make learners feel uncomfortable as it could be interpreted as juvenile.

To me, this seems particularly acute in workplace training. In addition to being populated by adults, there is professionalism also runs high. This can sometimes dictate which learning activities are appropriate, as if the activity is perceived as a game, it could be perceived as a waste of time. After all, learners in the workplace are taking time away from their job and livelihood to attend training.

In my own practice, I often find it difficult to move beyond demonstration, lecture, discussion, simulation, or project based learning. I do this because I fear the blank stares that may appear as I introduce a new activity, such as Team Jeopardy. While I work in a casual office, it still seems to me that many learners may see such activities as juvenile.

Adult learners are unique. There are tons of books on teaching but many times these are not specific to adult learning. While there are common themes in both pedagogy and andragogy, we cannot lose sight of the differences. For our learners to be perceptive and welcoming of learning, they will need to feel like they are being treated like adults.





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