Sage on Stage and Guide on the Side

I use both  “Sage on Stage” and“Guide on the Side” styles, depending on the class goals and setting.

It seems like students are more engaged, more active, and learning more when they are solving problems than when they are listening to a lecture. The data are not so clear. For example, among 8th graders learning math and science, those who received lecture-style direct instruction scored higher on standardized tests than did those who were solving problems in class ( ).  Also, there is some evidence that instructors rush too quickly to higher level application and synthesis activities before students have had time to learn enough basic information (see, for example, Why Don’t Students Like School by Daniel Willingham). When it comes to most learning outcomes I have in Introductory Psychology, it seems to me that direct instruction is the way to go.

Two twists: First, humans, students included, do not always like to do those activities that are likely to help them learn. Sometimes, I use class time to engage and motivate, not to directly teach a concept.  Second, many of the online activities that I can “curate” for students are actually direct instruction modules, presented in a way that students find more engaging than traditional lecture.

I suspect the field is moving toward finding the best ways to integrate these two approaches.

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2 Responses to Sage on Stage and Guide on the Side

  1. Cub Kahn says:

    Thanks for reminding us that this question of the instructor’s role has multiple facets and is not a simple “either/or” issue. Learning outcomes, group size, common background (or lack of the same), and course format (classroom, lab, field, hybrid, online) are just a few of the factors that come into play here. Your familiarity with educational research is beneficial to our hybrid faculty group; please continue to bring in perspectives from the literature.

  2. Tyler Hansen says:

    It surprised me to read that the eighth grade students scored better as a result of lecture-based teaching rather than the activity-based variety. I taught high school journalism briefly, and the best way to engage my students (and obtain greater learning outcomes) was by employing a simple “I do, we do, you do” strategy. I guess that was a generic combination (dare I say, hybrid) of the two methods. If I were your Intro to Psych student, though, I’d probably prefer the direct instruction method, too.

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