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The ‘sage on the stage’ becomes the ‘guide on the side’

The ‘sage on the stage’ becomes the ‘guide on the side’

In most universities around the world, the format of the lecture theatre or classroom has remained unchanged for centuries. Rows of front-facing students looking directly at their lecturer whilst frantically taking notes. The lecturer is the ‘sage on the stage’ – centrally preaching his or her knowledge to a class of willing listeners who memorise the content and regurgitate it when exams roll around.

In debating the need for student satisfaction in our universities, we often forget the other cogs in the academic wheel – that of our lecturers and researchers who are central to the reputation and success of our higher education institutions. But their needs are just as great as the students, and their satisfaction just as fundamental to delivering a quality education that then satisfies their students. The ease with which they are able to impart their knowledge, deliver their teachings and feel like their work provides a successful outcome is part of the overall ecosystem – and is a critical element.


Technology plays an enormous part in lecturers moving from a passive way of teaching – by preaching their knowledge and expecting it to fill the brains of their students, into an active one – where they are able to engage with their students more easily. They move from being the sage on the stage, to the guide on the side. Smartphones and other devices provide a way for students to do much of their learning off campus so that on campus lecturers can better facilitate discussions that lead to more in-depth learning.

For the student, the active model puts them centre stage. They have the ability to stop, reflect and review what they’ve learned and they can preview and question material before, during and after it is presented - be that in the classroom environment or remotely. When students are engaged in actively processing information by reconstructing that information in such a new and personally meaningful way, they are far more likely to remember it and apply it in new situations.

The lecturer is able to present the material in ways that make the students do something with it – interact with it, manipulate the ideas and relate them to what they already know. Their role becomes a facilitator’s role. They engage more fully with students and personalise the learning experience leading to a better student lecturer relationship and making for happier, more satisfied students and staff.

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