Originally posted on www.pblworks.org July 31, 2019
The guest lecturer came in… and we were bored to tears. This was the scene in my U.S. History class. What I thought was going to be a riveting lecture on the post-Civil War Reconstruction era nearly put me to sleep, along with my students. It also went way off of what our project focus was… which was reparations and colonization.
How did I let this happen?
In my new-teacher zeal to be as authentic as possible, I thought it would be good to bring in a local professor for a lecture. (I realize now that it would have been more authentic to have someone from a historical society come in, or even for students to visit buildings still in existence that were built by slaves.) In my failed attempt to be “real world,” we did not get the full impact of what a guest expert can bring to a project. This taught me that while it can be very useful to bring in outside guests to sustain the inquiry in projects, if the experience is unmanaged and poorly planned it can lead to a disaster. As teachers, we do not have ANY time to waste, and we certainly want to maintain good community relationships by not wasting the time of guests!
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your expert classroom visit: Communicate ahead of time about how to speak to the audience
Using local experts is a surefire way to prompt inquiry with students. Working with experts makes learning “real” and inspires students to think about their project more deeply. Guests may cause students to question what they have discovered so far, often digging deeper into an aspect of the presentation that they feel enriches their work. Managing guests’ interactions with your students through planning and support will ensure that they add significant value to your students’ projects.