Zone of intervention – when to be sage in the classroom.

There are too many teachers who believe that their role is to direct learning from the front of the classroom and keep control over everything that occurs. (In my first Hamilton school (1980) there was a real “stage” at the front of each classroom,  and you taught from behind a big desk which sat on the stage between you and the blackboard – one of those new roller based ones that gave you almost endless space to deliver your words of wisdom – and well separated from the students, who were way down on the lower deck).  I hated it – and quickly created opportunities for students to be on the stage, at the board or for me to join them “down below”. Today, minus the board and the stage, this is what I still see in so many room as I move (occasionally) around the school.

Modern concepts of flipped classrooms focus on the sage role but place it outside the classroom, and leave class time for interaction around the information gained. This still leaves me uneasy.

The main reason I question the sage approach is that there are many things that my students know that I do not, and they are all individuals, not a homogenous body. If I assume the guru position, am I not locking them into the knowledge I have and not extending them beyond it?

The main reason I do assume the sage role at times is because, with 6 years of tertiary education and many, many years of teaching experience there must be things that I know that they can’t know, or fully understand without some intervention on my part. In both my History teaching, and my Teacher-librarian role, I tend to work along the lines of Ross Todd and Carol Kuhlthau’s zone of intervention: Google this to download a Ppt on guided inquiry which covers this topic – 

Dr. Ross Todd
Dr. Ross Todd

3 thoughts on “Zone of intervention – when to be sage in the classroom.

  1. Hi Margaret, a great post – I agree entirely with the need for teachers to “exit the stage”. I once heard a saying that went something like – the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning & I often think of this when reflecting on pedagogy – I know that I really learnt some things for the first time when I had to teach them.

    On the other hand, one of my most profound learning successes as a student was in a senior maths classroom where the very old teacher epitomised “the sage on the stage” – I still remember many of the concepts I learned in that classroom today. I often wonder why this worked for me at this time and if it worked for the other 33 kids in the room as well?

    Thanks also for an earlier comment you posted on one of my blog posts – I am finding the course interesting and challenging.


  2. kellyblackwelly

    I found your description of your 1980 classroom provoked memories of the science classrooms when I was in school. The classroom was exactly as you described, but unfortunately I remember that my teacher was quite comfortable in his position of sage on that stage.

    I found your comments about being the sage in the classroom interesting and I agree with you that our education and experience does give us a ‘leg up’ compared to our students when it comes to making connections and critical thinking. In my practice, I address this by either asking leading questions to help my students get to their ‘aha’ moments, using Visible Thinking strategies to develop their own awareness of their thinking, or modelling the connections, critical analysis I have made by verbally leading my students through my thought process.

    Thank you for the link to Ross Todd’s powerpoint. It contains a wealth of information and tools that I am looking forward to exploring.


  3. msimkin

    Thanks Kelly. My Geography method lecturer in Dip. Ed took us through an activity which taught me so much about questioning. In pairs – one had a tin containing objects (which only they could look into), the other had to deduce what was in the tin by asking questions. No hints or tips were allowed. For all of my teaching career I have had frustrated students say:” Why won’t you just tell me the answer?” and I silently thank that lecturer. Goal number 1 – make them think!


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