The father of Molly and Colin, and the husband of Kim, Stephen D. Brookfield is the John Ireland Endowed Chair at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his B.A. degree (1970) from Lanchester College of Technology (Coventry, UK) in modern studies, his M.A. degree (1974) from the University of Reading (UK) in sociology, and his Ph.D. degree (1980) from the University of Leicester UK) in adult education. He also holds a postgraduate diploma (1971) from the University of London, Chelsea College, (UK) in modern social and cultural studies and a postgraduate diploma (1977) from the University of Nottingham (UK) in adult education. In 1991 he was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University System of New Hampshire for his contributions to understanding adult learning. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from Concordia University for his contributions to adult education. In 2010 Muhlenberg College awarded him an honorary doctorate of letters for educational leadership in the scholarship of teaching.
Stephen began his teaching career in 1970 and has held appointments at colleges of further, technical, adult and higher education in the United Kingdom, and at universities in Canada (University of British Columbia) and the United States (Columbia University, Teachers College and the University of St. Thomas). In 1989 he was Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Technical and Adult Teacher Education in what is now the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. In 2002 he was Visiting Professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. In 2003-2004 he was the Helen Le Baron Hilton Chair at Iowa State University. He has run numerous workshops on teaching, adult learning and critical thinking around the world and delivered many keynote addresses at regional, national and international education conferences.
In 2001 he received the Leadership Award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) for ‘extraordinary contributions to the general field of continuing education on a national and international level’. In 2008 he received the University of St. Thomas John Ireland Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Teacher/Scholar, and also the University of St. Thomas Diversity Leadership Teaching and Research Award. Also in 2008 he was awarded the Morris T. Keeton Medal by the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning for ‘outstanding contributions to adult and experiential learning’. In 2009 he was inducted into the International Adult Education Hall of Fame.
He is a six time winner of the Cyril O. Houle World Award for Literature in Adult Education: in 1986 for his book Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning: A Comprehensive Analysis of Principles and Effective Practices (1986), in 1989 for Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting (1987), in 1996 for Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher (1995) in 2005 for The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching (2004), in 2011 for his book with John D. Holst, Radicalizing Learning: Adult Education for a Just World (2010) and in 2012 for Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions (2011). Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning also won the 1986 Imogene E. Okes Award for Outstanding Research in Adult Education. These awards were all presented by the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education. The first edition of Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms (2nd ed. 2005), which he co-authored with Stephen Preskill, was a 1999 Critics Choice of the Educational Studies Association. His other books are Adult Learners, Adult Education and the Community (1984), Self-Directed Learning: From Theory to Practice (1985), Learning Democracy: Eduard Lindeman on Adult Education and Social Change (1987), Training Educators of Adults: The Theory and Practice of Graduate Adult Education (1988), The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust and Responsiveness in the Classroom (2nd. ed. 2006), Teaching Reflectively in Theological Contexts: Promises and Contradictions (co-edited with Mary Hess, 2008), Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice (co-authored with Stephen Preskill, 2008), Handbook of Race and Adult Education (co-edited with Vanessa Sheared, Scipio Colin III, Elizabeth Peterson and Juanita Johnson, 2010) and Powerful Techniques for Teaching Adults (2012).