It’s a common quip that in flipped classrooms, where students learn content outside of class and use live classroom time for application, analysis, and discussion, the instructor moves "from sage on the stage to guide on the side." However, a recent study surveying students’ perceptions of instruction in a flipped classroom, as well as their perspectives on the ideal teacher, suggests that "guide on the side" might not be exactly what students want. While the students in this study expressed their appreciation of instructor guidance and availability, they also pointed to the value of teachers as sages. In an ideal classroom, according to this study, a teacher is both sage on the stage and guide on the side.

This was a small-scale study conducted in one forty-student undergraduate class for premedical school students. On the first day of class, students completed a survey asking them to describe their perception of the instructor’s role in a lecture-driven course, based on their favorite experience in a lecture class. In the middle of the semester, they were asked whether they perceived their instructor’s role in their flipped classroom course as that of moderator or provider of information and why. On the final day of class, students were asked to write about their ideal role of the instructor in the class and to report their favorite aspect of the flipped classroom course.

The open-ended answers to the survey questions revealed that students enjoyed the increased interaction with their instructor in the flipped classroom course. While 65% reported that an ideal instructor would engage in lots of teacher–student interaction, 75% commented that they had little or no interaction with the instructor of their favorite lecture course. The final survey also indicated that students’ ideal instructor would encourage interaction among students themselves. No one had mentioned that this was a role of the teacher in a lecture class. Nearly half the students reported discussions or peer interactions as their favorite aspect of the flipped lecture course.

However, despite students’ appreciation for the teacher’s role in encouraging discussion and interaction in a flipped classroom, they did not indicate that this guiding role should replace the giving of information. On the contrary, the survey results showed that the ideal teacher would give information, provide help, and encourage interaction.

While the small sample size of this study makes it difficult to generalize based on the results, these students indicated that wanting teachers to guide doesn’t mean they don’t also want them to be sages. In other words, appreciating interaction does not mean that students despise knowledgeable authority. In an ideal world, why not have it all?

McLean, S. & Attardi, S. (2018). Sage or guide? Student perceptions of the role of the instructor in a flipped classroom. Active Learning in Higher Education,1–13.

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