In, The Skillful Teacher (2015), the title of Dr. Stephen Brookfield’s Chapter 18 sounds like a Public Service Announcement: “Exercising Teacher Power Responsibly” (pp. 239-251).
Teachers of adults aren’t meant to stand at a pulpit and preach, that is so pedagogical: I teach, you learn! They aren’t meant to be authoritarian figures either. Educators have a responsibility to their learners, their institution, their profession, and to the public to produce successful members of society (dental assistants, nurses, doctors, managers, teachers, social workers, etc.). To do so, an educator must control the classroom, AND facilitate a positive learning environment where learners meet prescribed expectations.
Brookfield warns that “you can use teacher power to inspire, guide, and encourage, just as much as to punish, diminish, or massage your ego” (p. 240). There is a lot of responsibility associated in exercising power in the classroom, and our intent must be to promote policies and curricula that are “inherently valuable or socially beneficial” (p. 241). He outlines systems that promote the facilitator’s correct use of power:
Transparency: Be up front with objectives. How I will use my power. Give clear expectations.
Responsiveness: Let students know that you will address any problem that arises, and talk to them about how you will respond (to concerns they’ve expressed). Use weekly “Critical Incident Questionnaires” (Brookfield, p. 34).
Consistent Fairness: Follow through on objectives. Create a level and positive ‘playing field’ for all types of learners e.g. introvert/extrovert.
Knowing When to Exert Power (Ethical Coercion): Identify the material that is crucial (mandatory) for meeting objectives, and deliver it with authority and civility.
When researching this topic, I stumbled upon an awesome PIDP alumnus’ blog post on Brookfield’s chapter. The blog’s author, ‘Thea’, includes a link from Faculty Focus that outlines the different types of power that a teacher can exert. Check it out: Different Sources of Power that Affect the Teacher-Student Relationship (Weimer, 2009).
A Collection of Knowledge. (2017, January 27). Exercising Teacher Power Responsibly – a reflection of Brookfield. Retrieved from https://acollectionofknowledge.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/exercising-teacher-power-responsibly-a-reflection-of-brookfield/
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher (3rded.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Weimer, M. (2009, December 22). Different Sources of Power that Affect the Teacher-Student Relationship. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/different-sources-of-power-that-affect-the-teacher-student-relationship/
The featured image in this post was taken at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia.