Guest Speakers

When should you use a guest speaker?

A guest speaker is generally a subject matter expert whom you recruit to engage students in a particular aspect of your course and enhance your course material. They can be used under many different circumstances, and can either bring an exciting topic to life or invigorate a topic which some may find dull.

Finding a Guest Speaker

In order to find high quality guest speakers, you will likely need to recruit them as early as possible. Recruiting a speaker early also emphasizes the importance of the date to the speaker. In order to accommodate the schedule of a busy person you may need to be flexible with your dates.

Ensuring Credibility

If you know the speaker personally then credibility is usually not an issue. However it is very important that you establish that the speaker you are bringing in is in fact an expert on the subject matter. One of the easiest ways of finding credible guest speakers is asking your colleagues to refer you to someone in their network.

Communicating with your Speaker

Send the speaker a syllabus and a list of readings students will have done, or ask for a list from them. Ensure that you and the speaker are in agreement about what to speak about and what you want the students to gain from the experience. Encourage them to use personal experiences as well as to communicate the principles of the subject as they understand it.

Bringing the Speaker to York

Before the speaker arrives, ensure they are familiar with the campus and know where you are and where they are. It is useful to send them the map of campus, available online. A limited number of free, one-day parking passes are available for community partners visiting campus as part of an experiential education activity. An instructor must request the parking pass for the community partner.

Evaluate and Show Gratitude

Having an in-class evaluation during the following class can provide valuable feedback to you and the speaker, as well as helping students to learn key concepts. If you and the speaker design the evaluation together, it can also be a tool to help you both understand the ideal outcomes of the lecture. Remember to thank your guest speaker and be gracious - they are doing you a favour.

Tools for Fostering Engagement

There are several strategies you can employ to help your students engage with the guest speaker. These activities do not work alone, but when combined they work together to help students engage with the material:

  • In-class discussion in small groups
  • Class-wide discussions
  • Using a Personal Response System such as Clickers or an online tool such as Poll Every Where during and/or after the presentation. Note that neither is free, and you must ensure the room is capable of supporting either tool.