Sage on the Stage

My subscription to ASCD online gains me access to a daily education news update with links to articles about educational issues from a multitude of national news sources.  Today’s update about lecture-style teach caught my attention.

Here’s the initial article by Paul Petersen, which basically summarizes the results of a research study in which American students were studied for their learning responses to lecture-style (“sage on the stage”) versus problem-based (“guide on the side”) teaching practices:  “Eighth-Grade Students Learn More Through Direct Instruction”

In a separate (connected) article, Guido Schwerdt and Amelie C. Wupperman (researchers), produce their study results that support the use of lecture-style teaching in math and science classes for student learning:  “Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement”  (You can get the unabridged version here)

As part of the study, the researchers asked teacher to assess what percentage of their classroom time was based on problem-based (i.e. Cooperative learning, i.e. student centered learning, i.e. cooperative groupings, etc. etc.–because God forbid educators pick one name for a technique!!) versus lecture-style (i.e. School Marm) teaching.  As I’m reading these articles, I’m thinking…Wow, am I an awful teacher??  I don’t do any student-centered learning!  They aren’t learning anything.  How could anyone give someone as incompetent as myself a classroom?!?

That’s always my first reaction.  Self-criticism.

After digesting and processing the information (and critiquing my every move from “Good morning, class!” to “Have a good afternoon”), I realized that I have a pretty careful balance of around 50/50 for each of the teaching methods.  I would say I generally lecture in two conditions–1)  The beginning of a new unit and I’m providing introductory information, and 2) Needing to do a quick overview of a lot of information that I think can best be disseminated through direct instruction.  My student-centered learning comes in the form of group work, independent project (especially in my honors class), individual work, and grouping work.  I think, that like everything else in life (desserts included), everything is fine in moderation.  I don’t see anything wrong or inappropriate with my love of lecturing, nor do I see anything wrong with another, possibly more creative!, teacher’s ability to incorporate student-centered learning into 80% of her teaching.  Both methods are “research based” (buzz words of education today), and both have been proven as tried and true over periods of use.

I guess we’ll see how appropriate and useful my teaching techniques are over the next few years as we being implementation of our RtI universal screener and begin using data to track student growth–roll the dice!


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