The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching – a reflection of Brookfield

Brookefield discusses 4 assumptions of skillful teaching:

Skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn

The thing to keep in mind here is that there is not necessarily a right or wrong way to teach.  Some teachers may do things differently, but this does not mean they are doing it right and you are doing it wrong.  It is also important to keep in mind that different groups of learners may learn differently to others, so you may need to adapt your style or approach to suit the learner. Ball & Forzani discuss teaching skillful teaching and talk about how some learners require a great deal of direction, whereas another learner may prefer to puzzle things out for themselves.

Brookfield also talks about using texting as a way of gathering quick responses from learners on what they have learnt. This may seem unconventional, but makes the point that if this is what is going to help learners learn, then go for it.

Skillful teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practice

A quote from Brookfield that I think explains this well is:

“Skillful teaching, on the other hand, is teaching that is contextually informed”. (pg 40)

As with the first assumption, it is important to adapt to the group of learners you are teaching.  As teachers we need to continually examining how we teach and what works well for different learners.  This can be through academic reading of the latest trends in education, or simply speaking to colleagues and learners about what works well and what doesn’t.

Teachers need a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers’ actions

I think this flows nicely from the first 2 assumptions and the key thing to keep in mind is that we need to keep checking in with our learners to see what is working and what is not.

If we look at Knowles 4 Principles Of Andragogy, number 1 is:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

Adult learners what to feel involved and in control of their learning experience, so we need to accommodate this by checking in with them to see what they need and how they want to learn. This is not to say you need to customize every lesson plan to the individual needs of the learner, but just having activities built in that give the learner options and make them feel in control can help them to learn.

CMU provides some good information on monitoring group work, which could be a great way to also be a good way to check in with the learners experience.

College students of any age should be treated as adults

College students are a very varied age group, so the best approach is to treat them like adults.  Once they have achieved college level they have moved into higher education and the next stage of their lives.  So whether they are 18 or 40, they should be treated as adults.



Ball, D.L., & Forzani, F.M., (2010). Teaching Skillful Teaching. Educational Leadership, 68(4), p40-45.

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

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