What is a Guest Lecture?
Collaboration between students and stakeholders beyond their immediate learning community in the university is important for effective learning. The practice of using external guest lecturers is a common approach of enriching students’ learning experiences in the education of many disciplines. In higher education, a guest lecturer is a person invited to present or speak regarding a topic at an event where they are not the host, such as for a course or event. Traditional guest lecturer experiences are where a guest would interact with students in a series of collaborative activities such as presentations or seminars. With the development of technology, virtual guest lecturers are becoming prevalent in university teaching.
A growing body of literature puts forward that a purposeful, well-organized, focused and interactive guest lecture session will enable students to analyse, think critically and apply the theoretical concepts to which they are exposed (Wetzel, 2012; Badia, 2015). This is especially relevant for guest lecturers who are currently practitioners or have relevant perspectives that related to a certain industry which students could be interested in joining upon graduation.
This guide seeks to provide SMU instructors like you with practical suggestions on how to organise an effective guest lecture session for your students.
Considerations when inviting guest lecturers
- How will the guest lecture content align with the course and lesson objectives?
The first thing to consider is always your course and lesson objectives. You may find it helpful to begin by asking key questions such as “What do I want my students to learn?”, “How does a guest lecturer help my students gain a fresh perspective or understand a certain content better?”, “How do I measure the effectiveness of the guest lecture?”. Your responses to these questions can be shared with the guest lecturer later to help them understand the scope and prepare the content of their lecture.
- What benefits can be gained by incorporating guest lecturers?
In their study on students’ perceptions on guests lecturers, Merle and Craig (2017) highlighted that industry guest lecturers could potentially bridge the academic-practitioner gap by providing students with real-world examples and anecdotes which help them gain an understanding of how concepts can be applied in the workplace. Guest lecturers could also enhance student learning when they reinforce course content through unique presentation styles and specific examples, adding novelty to the usual learning activities.
Other studies put forward that benefits are not limited to students. For examples, Zou, Sun, Hallowell, Luo, Lee, & Ge (2019) suggested that a trilateral relationship among students, professors, and guest lecturers promotes reciprocal benefits, where guest lecturers, students, and instructors have dual roles and contribute to and gain from each other. This relationship is mapped out in their Trilateral Model of Benefits (see Figure 1).Figure 1: Trilateral Model of Benefits
- Who should be your guest lecturer?
Since guest lecturers are contributing to the completion of learning objectives by providing industry-centred insights, they should possess intimate and current working knowledge of the innerworkings and requirements of that field. Ideally, this person should have ample first-hand experience and exposed to different facets of the industry. This candidate should also be an effective communicator and comfortable connecting with a younger audience.
Candidates from middle management could be suitable because of the balance of operational insights and strategic awareness they bring which are more relevant to students who are likely to be starting at a junior level.
The lecturer could be from your own personal or professional network or those of your colleagues. LinkedIn is another useful platform to identify suitable lecturers. Alternatively, you may approach the Dato' Kho Hui Meng Career Centre for industry contacts.
- How to plan for a guest lecturer event?
Planning is an important part of utilising guest lecturers appropriately and applies to both the guest and students. You can discuss course objectives, assignments, and the curriculum with the guest ahead of time. To prepare a guest for their lecture, you can inform the guest on the selection of a topic, length of the class, available technology, and time for questions. Guest lecturers can be encouraged to employ different visual aids, such as PowerPoint, handouts, or video clips. To help prepare guest lecturers further, you may choose to give the lecturer a reflection question to facilitate group discussion. This question serves to ease the preparation work for the lecturer and promote interactions with students. Guest lecturers can also be encouraged to begin their session by stating the importance of the topic they are presenting by contextualising it to the industry. For example, a guest might discuss how the material is linked to employment, share a personal anecdote, or discuss a historical example related to the topic they are speaking on.
It is also important to prepare students for the guest lecturer event lecture ahead of time. Students should either be given a brief description of the guest lecturers and their experience, or be required to independently research them preceding the event. You may also choose to have students come up with questions for the guest ahead of time, and then send them to the guest to provide an overview of what students are interested in. Additionally, the students can prepare for a guest lecturer by brainstorming what they want to take away from the guest lecture.
Traditionally, guest lecturer events have been held in classrooms and allow students to interact with lecturers in the same time and place.
Keep in mind the setting
In recent years, online guest lecturer events are growing dramatically due to new technology. Compared with the traditional classroom use of guest lecturers, virtual guest lectures occur online and do not have time or geographic barriers. Utilising online technology to facilitate guest lecturers also allows for a larger pool of potential lecturers. Online guest lecturer presentations can be taped to capture the dialogue of students with the guest, and later be used as a reference (Sage, 2013). It should be noted, however, that you need to look into legal guidelines for recording guest lecturers and students, and seek consent from the parties involved.
- What to take note of before a guest lecturer event?
As described earlier, the lecturer should be invited to give a lecture with advanced notice. It is helpful to confirm the lecturer’s availability before the start of semester with a follow-up one month before the lecture to run through the course objectives and assignments with the guest lecturer ahead of the session. The following information could also be provided:
- Student profile (such as year level, discipline and major, knowledge level)
- Type of questions students usually ask, concerns they have
- Audio Visual equipment available (Note: Do also check if the lecturer has additional requirements such as playing a video or access to certain software)
One week before lecture, you may also verify key information such as:
- Lesson details (For physical lessons, check that the guest knows where the venue is and if applicable, parking arrangements. For online lessons, link to the video conferencing room)
- Any materials to be shared with students before or during lesson
- Any learning activities that require prior preparation
- If possible, a copy of the slides to serve as back-up for the lesson
- Question & Answer format
Sharing of Contact Details
Do check if the guest is comfortable with you sharing their contact details with students. Students may also want to connect with guest lecturer via social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Hence, it is important to check the guest lecturer’s comfort level, and manage students’ expectations accordingly.
- What to take note of after a guest lecturer event?
The process of using a guest lecturer does not end with their lecture. Following the lecturer’s presentation, the material presented by the lecturer can be used in the students’ course work. For example, you could assign students to write a reflection paper linking the content from the guest lecturer to the course material. Another innovative approach is to have students pen their thoughts on what they learned from the lecture, which can be anonymised and sent to the guest for feedback. Additionally, it is important to give guest lecturer thank-you notes which describe your appreciation and photos which could be included in a guest lecturer’s professional portfolio. Guest Lecturers can also be given a small memento, stipend, or gift from the school to strengthen the relationship with the guest.
For more information and tips on planning a meaningful guest lecture, you may refer to McCleary and Weaver’s (2008) paper where they shared a seven-step model covering different stages such as initial approach, determining the goals for a guest lecturer event, sharing course materials with the lecturer, preparing the audiences, preparing for coming event, and gathering and providing feedback to the lecturer.
ReferencesBadia, G. (2015). Listen Up, Everyone! Conquering Students' Inattentiveness When You're the Guest Lecturer.
Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship.McCleary, K. W., & Weaver, P. A. (2008). The effective use of guest speakers in the hospitality and tourism curriculum.
Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism: the official journal of International Society of Travel & Tourism Educators, 8(4), 401-414.Merle, P. F., & Craig, C. (2017). Be my guest: A survey of mass communication students' perception of guest speakers.
College Teaching, 65(2), 41-49.Mooney, L.A. (1998) Pitching the profession: faculty guest speakers in the classroom.
Teach Sociology, 26(3):157–165.Sage, M. (2013). Distance guest speakers in online synchronous classrooms: Practical and legal considerations.
Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 33(4-5), 385-392.Wetzel, R. D. (2012). Contacting guest speakers.
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 83(6), 51-53.Zou, P., Sun, W., Hallowell, S. G., Luo, Y., Lee, C., & Ge, L. (2019). Use of guest speakers in nursing education:
an integrative review of multidisciplinary literature. Advances in medical education and practice, 10, 175.