Professors should invite guest lecturers to their classes

Hunter Littleton

Lecture-based classes are a common part of the college experience. Within these settings, professors hold a firm grip on the ebbs and flows of the learning environment.

However, in this kind of academic environment, students are routinely disengaged, divorcing them from their learning while increasing the dread they feel before each class.

In order to break up the monotonous nature of lecture-based classes, professors should invite guest lecturers to their classroom, exposing students to new and varied voices and perspectives. 

In his fall 2020 Advanced Russian Through Global Debate class, Thomas J. Garza, associate professor in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, expanded the worldview of students’ learning environment through a relationship with a partner class in Moscow. 

The partnership started after Garza conversed with colleagues in Moscow about the ways virtual technology could be used to foster a relationship between sets of students thousands of miles apart, not only for the purposes of exchanging language, but also to exchange ideologies, manners of expressions and reactions to the dominant trends of the time. 

The course proved to be a hit. No students dropped the course, a rare occurrence.

While the nature of Garza’s course undoubtedly varies from the standard lecture class, the benefits reaped from this relationship generally mirror those offered by the incorporation of a guest lecturer in classes heavily reliant on lectures. The purpose of each of the aforementioned practices is to help the professor provide an underrepresented perspective, challenge unchallenged ideas and inspire students previously uninspired. 

“I think having at the very least one, two, three other speakers come into a class, ideally speakers that are not like the instructor and don’t share the same opinions as the instructor, is critical,” Garza said. 

Skyler Blalock, an international relations and global studies sophomore, said he has had positive experiences with guest lecturers in his time at UT. In his Intro to European Studies course, his professor invited a guest lecturer into the class to add their voice to the topic of life in Cold War Germany. While the professor provided their uniquely American perspective on the topic, the outsider voice, a native German, was able to provide a firsthand account of what it was like to live in Germany when it was split between Western and Eastern Europe.

“One primarily grew up in the United States, and the other one grew up in Germany, so having the perspective from both of them, I was able to better relate to the material in class,” Blalock said. 

While the benefits of incorporating a variety of perspectives might appear less obvious in fields with quantitative foundations, it is equally important in such fields — a fact that Garza stressed. Doctors face ethical dilemmas on issues such as inoculation, euthanasia and life-sustaining treatment. Engineers face ethical dilemmas on issues such as artificial intelligence. 

It is important that students in these fields approach such conundrums equipped with a variety of perspectives to pursue the best possible response.

Professors in all fields should enrich their learning environment by incorporating new voices as guest lecturers. Modern technology makes it even easier for such practices to become the norm. Connections spanning hundreds and thousands of miles can be made rather easily with the right equipment. It is important that professors begin to understand and take advantage of these benefits. If nothing else, it saves them one lesson plan for the year.

Littleton is a government junior from Waco, Texas.