Monday, September 2, 2013

Guide by the Side

We can’t expect students to be autonomous and creative when we tell them exactly what to do. Instead let’s aim to point students in the right direction and get out of their way.

I love it when I enter classrooms and I can’t immediately find the teacher. Sometimes the teacher is huddling with students. Other times the teacher is sitting with a group or working one-on-one with a student.

Embodied in this guide by the side philosophy is that students will learn more, discover new concepts and apply their learning on their own. Students are no longer passive learners.  The assignment becomes a quest for knowledge as students strive to discover answers on their own. We’ve moved beyond the transmittal of information from teacher to student. The teacher becomes a facilitator.

Cognitively, this approach makes sense. When students—for that matter anyone—are able to generate relationships between the new material and what they already know, they are far more likely to remember it and apply it. In this constructivist classroom, students are given the opportunity to truly interact with the material.

This is not to suggest that the teacher no longer lectures or instructs. A guide by the side teacher provides a framework, some information, and resources. The guide by the side constantly poses questions to stimulate students.  

Students need to think for themselves, pose and solve problems. In a guide by the side classroom, students produce knowledge instead of reproduce information. As we become guides on the sides—it won’t happen overnight—students will become more independent and real learning will improve. 

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