A guide on the side or a sage on the stage? (Teaching Tip)

A group of students studying in Parks Library at Iowa State University

This past week I was working with my elementary age twins on word ladders. In word ladders, clues are provided for children to rearrange letters to make a new word from the one they have just made. For example, from the word “bring,” the clue was: “I did not hear the bell ____. Take away one letter.”

As we were working on our second page of word ladders, I realized I was reading the clues, writing the responses, and just barely giving the children enough time to think of the response. It dawned on me that I did not need to work on my reading, writing, or vocabulary skills and that I was missing a valuable opportunity to let them do the work and for me to be “a guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage” (or at the kitchen table).

Indeed, challenging intellectual work is central to learning for any age learner. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (and decades of research into student learning), we know that instructors can promote student learning by challenging and supporting them to engage in deep learning through higher-order learning and reflection.

The next time that you are preparing for your class or even when you are teaching your class, reflect on the amount of time you are doing the critical (and fun) thinking, and the amount of time your students are spending:

  • Applying facts, theories, or methods to practical problems or new situations
  • Analyzing an idea, experience, or line of reasoning by examining its parts
  • Evaluating a point of view, decision, or information source
  • Forming a new idea from various pieces of information
  • Connecting ideas from your course to their previous experiences and knowledge.

A great resource that can help you consider your place as a guide on the side or the sage on the stage is Bloom’s Taxonomy (view CELT’s Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy webpage). You can use the Bloom’s verbs to create your course learning objectives, create meaningful teaching and learning strategies, and determine effective assessment and evaluation methods providing students the opportunity to confirm that they have mastered the course level objectives. While it might seem daunting, paying attention to the amount of time you are doing the work in the class and the amount of time the students are spending grappling with course content is a great start to designing and delivering deep learning opportunities.

Hope to see you in 3024 Morrill Hall (all CELT staff are now centrally located!),

Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: A guide on the side or a sage on the stage? (January 24, 2019 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for January 24, 2019 (PDF)