Being the "Guide on the Side"

Student-Centered Learning (SCL) often highlights the shift from the teacher being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side”. Based on your own experience as instructors or as lifelong learners, what are some of the best practices for making that transition or for maintaining it when the ticking of the clock for meeting fiscal year goals and completions grows louder?

I’d love to hear your ideas and recommendations.



Dr. Jo Boaler, a researcher at Stanford University, has done some interesting studies on students becoming a mathematician.  One of the practices that she mentions in creating a mathematician is to become a skeptic.  She encourages students to first, convince themselves that an answer is true; second, convince a friend that what you believe is true; and third, convince a skeptic.  By having students work together to convince each other of their "correctness" than the teacher is changed from being the "sage of the stage". 

For adult students, this model seems to reduce the anxiety of having to be 100% correct because this process is iterative and they are allowed to make a mistake and change their minds.  This type of learning and struggle is valuable for creating a richer learning experience.  I realize that this can be hard to do all the time in Adult Education with the need to meet outcomes - but if students become stronger in their mathematical understanding.  A classroom should be a balance of some procedural and some conceptual, by blending these two teaching practices students will grow in their journey of becoming mathematical thinkers since they are having to engage their brains and not just passively absorb the information from the instructor.