Sages and guides

Yesterday I was trying to recall a pair of expressions that contrast two modes of learning. I remembered half of it — “the guide on the side”. A little Web searching turned up the other half — “the sage on the stage”. According to this article, these are also known as the transmittal and constructivist learning models. A sage on the stage transmits information, whereas a guide on the side sets up the conditions for the information to be discovered.

The topic came up in a conversation about rethinking the conference. The contrast between traditional and “un” conferences reminded me of the sage vs. guide setup. In retrospect I think the analogy isn’t quite apt. In Econ 101, the information flows from teacher to students. In a conference, on the other hand, much of the information lives in the seats around the dais.