Role of the Instructor – evolving or dissolving?

In a technology-focused educational climate, what do you believe the role of the instructor to be today?

The instructor MUST balance between being the sage on the stage and being the guide on the side.  While the argument has been made that instructors should remove themselves from the stage, I contend that rather there should be a balance of sage and guide in educators.  I agree that learners should construct meaning, however, there are times when modeling and direct instruction are required.

Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle believed that students were empty vessels and passive learning was all that was needed to educate the masses, however, in recent times there has been a shift toward a constructivist approach.  Rather than adding this pedagogical approach to the existing way of teaching, the approach has been to embrace constructivism while throwing out all other methods.  “Active teachers push all students to learn more, work harder, and take the time to provide their students with clear answers to problems that they have posed in class” (Jennings, 2012).  Jennings argues in her research that there is still a need for the sage on the stage.  Her article was published in the Journal of Legal Studies Education.  It seems logical that in order to learn how to properly argue a legal case that a certain amount of direct instruction, and/or modeling of arguments is required for learners to develop these skills.

Inquiry-based instruction leads learners to their own discoveries.

Inquiry-based instruction focused on process, content, strategy, and context is a more learner-centered form of teaching, however, the instructor is still the occasional sage and the occasional guide along the learner’s journey of knowledge acquisition.

The activities are guided by the learner’s interests, where the students learn critical thinking skills, the active investigations and reflections are very focused on rich interactions with the material and other learners as students make their own meaning, drawing conclusions from their own discovery (Saunders-Stewart, Gyler, & Shore, 2012).

As adaptive learning platforms are developed and technology improves, learning will continue without the teacher. With adaptive educational platforms and the elevated interest in educational gaming, it is not difficult to picture a technology-based education where the computer becomes the teacher.  The results of experimentation show that teacher student interaction can be automated, thus not requiring the need for the teacher (Proserpio & Magni, 2012).

Proserpio and Magni researched the use of computer simulations to improve learning outcomes.  Their research allowed them to conclude that selection of the right game was essential, the game interface had to be simple, and group activity is critical.

The use of educational games for learning is not new or unusual as they provide concrete contexts for learning, encourage active engagement, and high levels of immersion into the game.  Motivation through rewards, rapid and informative feedback, and character enhancements are used in gaming, which keeps learners engaged (Wideman, Owston, Brown, Kushniruk, Ho, & Pitts, 2007).


Faleye, B., & Awopeju, O. (2012). A Revalidation of Students’ Evaluation of Teaching Effectiveness Rating Scale. IFE Psychologia, 20(2), 150-160.

Jennings, M. (2012). In Defense of the Sage on the Stage: Escaping from the “Sorcery” of Learning Styles and Helping Students Learn How to Learn, Journal of Legal Studies Education, 29(2), 191-237. Retrieved from:, 10.1111/j.1744-1722.2012.01105.x

Saunders-Stewart, K. M. (2012). Student Outcomes in Inquiry Instruction: A Literature-Derived Inventory. Journal Of Advanced Academics, 23(1), 5-31.

Wideman, H., Owston, R., Brown, C., Kushniruk, A., Ho, F., and Pitts, K., Unpacking the potential of educational gaming: A new tool for gaming research. Simulation & Gaming, 38(1), 1-21. Retrieved from: DOI: 10.1177/1046878106297650

Originally published: September 30, 2012  – Blog rebuilt: April 20, 2014


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