Guide from the Side

From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side

In our facilitation training course for teaching courses online, we use an article that’s pretty old. The article “From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side” was written by Alison King about 25 years ago and it talks about the shift of perception in the mind of a teacher or a facilitator when they must inevitably transition into the role of a guide. They move from being the person who knows more than anybody else and whose job it is to deliver that information, that truth, to being the person who gently guides those who are actively exploring knowledge on their own. This is an idea that gets mixed responses, especially today in our Evangelical world where many are concerned about post modernism and the shift away from absolute truth.

One of things that concerns teachers about being the Guide on the Side is that by moving to the side, we’re giving people permission to decide, Well, I have truth for myself, and you have truth yourself. I guess there really is not such thing as an expert. However this isn’t what this learning theory is really saying. What this learning theory is saying is that a person hasn’t really understood a piece of truth information until they’ve really done something personally with it. Until they’ve engaged with it deeply, either through reflection or activity or problem-solving. Until a learner has done this, they really haven’t made it their own. They haven’t personalized it to the point where, in the moment of need, it will be recalled and implemented.

So if our desire as teachers is to have our students love and revere us as towers of intellect and knowledge, then we can continue to teach as the Sage on the Stage. But if we really want them to learn and grow as godly individuals, then we need to move to a place where we can offer them small doses of information and truth while encouraging them to step out on their own. We need to foster an environment where learners are pushed towards actively using the material, making it their own and taking it into their lives. This encourages learners away from head-knowledge, and towards life changes.

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