3260-The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

In chapter two of The Skillful Teacher, author Stephen D. Brookfield discusses the four core assumptions about skillful teaching:

The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

  • Skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn
  • Skillful teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practice
  • Skillful teachers need to do good work and have a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teacher’s actions
  • College students of any age should be treated as adults

What helps a student learn:

Factors relating to classroom instruction and climate have nearly as much impact on learning as do student aptitude.

I recognize that direct influences have a greater impact on learning than indirect influences.

Direct influences include the amount of time a teacher spends on a topic and the quality of the social interactions teachers have with their students. Continuous assessment of learning is required to ensure the lessons are resonating with the majority of students.

Indirect influences that impact on learning can include home environment, peer aspirations, community influences, school culture, school demographics, and size of instructional group (whole class, small group, one-on-one instruction).

Critically Reflective 

If Skillful teaching is to be informed. What does that look like? We can use formative assessments such as Critical Incident Questionnaires to establish credibility and authenticity with our students.

As teachers we should expect ambiguity and not be afraid to take risks. We should be willing to research and confirm with our students our assumptions. This will give us a greater ability to reflect on our teaching practices.

Constant Awareness

What better way to stay connected to your practice than to always see yourself and the material you are teaching through the eyes of the students in front of you.

To me true awareness is when your feedback is anonymous. The students feel free to share their thoughts better. This gives me a good idea where my strengths and weaknesses are.

College students of any age should be treated as adults

If students are neither adults nor non-adults, what are they? I treat everyone the same. The students are responsible for seeking the help they need when they need it. I am responsible to help them learn.

Students should be prepared to take responsibility for their learning, self-assess their work, work well with others, submit homework on time, and act respectfully.

To me age is not a factor. We are all there to learn and be responsible for our learning path.


Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.



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