Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class
Typically, professors may invest weeks of effort into scheduling a guest speaker, but less effort into arranging their classroom activities so that the speaker’s appearance will further the curricular objectives of the course. When professors invite guest experts into their classrooms, they tend to conceptualize the arrangement as a compartmentalized event that stands outside of the regular current of class activity. The block of time scheduled for the guest tends to represent a break from the class schedule, rather than an essential part of the course material. As a result, the guest’s contributions are not as impactful as they might be if steps were taken to ensure that some degree of alignment were achieved between the curriculum and the speaker. The following strategies may help professors optimize the value of guest experts whom they invite to address their students.
Communicate clearly with the guest about what the objectives of the class are, where the students are in the overall curriculum, and how the guest’s appearance in your class intersects with what the students are learning about that week. Encourage the guest expert to tailor her remarks toward specific learning goals that the students are actively pursuing. You might also consider providing your guest expert with a copy of your syllabus, as well as with a brief summary of presentations given by other guest experts who have addressed your class.
Randy Laist, associate professor and curriculum director, Goodwin College