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Two Methods of Teaching
I remember my first students. They were a brother and sister, and I was teaching science for these new to homeschool seventh and eighth-grader. I had always taught in lecture style. I present the idea from a stage or podium; then, it is the students’ job to understand the concepts for the test. Homeschooling was going to be different. I was going to have to use a different method of teaching since there was no podium in the home. These students weren’t going to have classmates to bounce ideas or struggle through the work. They were going to need me to mix and match the two methods of teaching; what I call the guide at the side and the sage on a stage.
Over the last few weeks, I have written about teaching as a form of communication. This week I am going to break down the two methods of teaching, the guide at the side and the sage on a stage. Everyone tends to gravitate toward one style, but we all use both in some form or fashion. So let’s dive into the one we are perhaps more familiar with, the sage on a stage.
Method 1: Sage on a Stage
Imagine the wizened professor climbs the stage and walks across to the podium. The several dozen onlookers prepare to soak in the professor’s knowledge. Perhaps she begins to write on a chalkboard or walk through PowerPoint slides; regardless, no one in the room knows more about the subject than she does. Her job is to broadcast her knowledge to us in the audience. We are to receive it and take notes. Then prepare for a test, so that the teacher is sure the students received the message and concepts. It is roughly the same process with a grade-school teacher in a class of 30 as the wizened professor with students in stadium seating.
Preachers, TV new anchors, even Youtubers, use this style of teaching. Right now, as you read this article, I have used my website to build a stage from which to broadcast to you, my learners. It is widespread and familiar, but it has limitations.
For example, how do I know you carry the concepts I teach beyond the test? How do I know that not only have you received my information, but it has also transformed you? Remember, the essence of teaching is the idea of transformation that comes from genuine communication.Remember, the essence of teaching is the idea of transformation that comes from genuine communication. Click To Tweet
The main strength, of course, is that the sage can speak to dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions from their stage. A stage scales. However, it only scales as far as you remain the most knowledgeable in the room. At the breakneck speed, we generate information and content, and textbooks are out of date before being printed. How is the sage supposed to learn and keep up with what they are supposed to teach?
In today’s world of data and information, the sage on the stage takes a different approach. They teach us how to think about new information. How to think was always a part of the curriculum. Yet, many lost sight of this critical facet of teaching under the onslaught of information. Now the sage must understand how we think, how we learn, and how we process to communicate better and more directly to achieve transformation rather than simple transmission. Teaching is no easy task, which is why the other method exists.
Method 2: Guide at the Side
Imagine you sit down at your computer. The small window pops up, showing someone wearing a small headset to walk you through something on your computer. As the person in the window speaks, he or she can see what’s on your screen and even highlight the information that you need. They don’t do the work for you; instead, they engage you where you are and guide you to the concepts you want to learn. The guide’s job is to meet you, not broadcast to you.
The guide at the side is someone who knows more than you still, but instead of walking up onto a stage, they invite you into their office. The guide looks at the material alongside you attempting to see what you see when you study the material. The communication style is vastly different from sage’s broadcast. A guide engages you.
The guide at the side method is only going to grow as the internet’s speed of information increases. Experts will sit next to us, maybe through our computer screen, and help accomplish tasks in our preferred method and time.The communication style is vastly different from sage’s broadcast. A guide engages you. Click To Tweet
The guide at the side is both a new and older style of education. Older because this is the same method of teaching that apprenticeships use. The knowledge and information are passed from master to student directly. There is no broadcast, and the master tests the student not a week later, but immediately. The master expects the student to ask questions and work with the master through the problem.
The guide at the side is new because the younger generations and the pace of information creation demand this method of teaching.
The problems with this style of teaching are numerous as well. For one, it doesn’t scale. Master guides are few and far between, yet still tasked with the same job as the sage in today’s world. They, too, must teach us how to think about the constant barrage of information, or they would be overwhelmed as well. The advantage is that anyone can be a guide for time. While there may be one expert at the top, anyone ahead of you in the process can be a guide. Your guide doesn’t have to know every answer. They need to give you their tools to work on this problem.
When I arrived at that home the first day, I brought my whiteboard with me. I knew how to teach from it and on it. I also knew how to learn from it. Instead of standing next to my whiteboard, I sat next to my student. From there, I was able to teach in both an auditory and visual capacity. Because I was next to my students, we made the learning even more vibrant and more visceral by drawing pictures and experimenting together.
Instead of being on a stage, I tutored myself into being a guide beside my students. I hope you can imagine the benefits they achieved from this style of teaching. The oldest can still trace a blood cell throughout the entire body, almost ten years later, because we memorized it together.Because I was next to my students, we made the learning even more vibrant and more visceral by drawing pictures and experimenting together. Click To Tweet
So what do you use in your business? In your parenthood? How do you learn? Many of us default to the sage on the stage because we don’t practice the other method. However, if we recall that apprenticeship is primarily a form of business training, then how does it apply to our business?
The best way for us to quickly learn the guide at the side method of teaching is to think about parenthood. When is the last time you made a PowerPoint presentation on how to walk for your toddler? Did you take the stage to teach them how to eat, speak, or even read? No, you got on their level and guided them through it. You held their hands until their feet found the balance. You cut the food into micro-bites until they had teeth and experience to chew, and you helped them sound it each syllable as they learned to read.
Apply that method of teaching to the business setting. Is the best way to teach company culture with a class on company culture or the leaders in your company coming alongside employees and engaging them in the mission? Imagine the CEO showing dishwashers how to do dishes with pride and excellence. What kind of culture does that set? What type of employee engagement do you get when you invest in someone on a personal level? Are there times to be the sage on a stage, of course? For example, today’s managers tend to be capable of only speaking from the podium while leaders guide from the side.Which will you be, a leader or a manager? Click To Tweet
How do you mix and match? Let me know in the comments. Or Subscribe to my email list to receive regular updates including a Coronavirus Resource Page.