Age is just a number…

stock-photo-young-woman-teaching-elderly-1729857In Stephen Brookfield’s book, The Skillful Teacher, he talks about four core assumptions of skillful teaching. The one that stands out to me is the fourth: College Students of any age should be treated as adults (Brookfield, 2015).

At first this statement struck me as self-evident, but I like that Brookfield doesn’t assume this to be true – that it bears investigation, research, and conclusion. I appreciate that he feels the need to name and discuss this. Of course no one likes to be talked down to, or condescended to. If you’re 18 and there’s a 49-year-old in your classroom, I think that dynamic can occur between students, in addition to the instructor-student communication.

I believe it’s also true that students of any age want their instructors to be knowledgeable and to have a plan to guide them and support them through the course content. And that the course content have value to them – why do they need to know what you are teaching them? A totally fair question.

It’s important to consider the emotional lives of students outside the classroom – not that instructors know the details of them, but to remember that they exist, and that we are all more than the façade we present to our classmates.

I think this core assumption is a good baseline from which to build a good relationship with students.

Brookfield, S. (2015). The skillful teacher, 3rd ed. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.


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