A guest lecturer is an individual who possesses advanced knowledge of a particular subject area, and who speaks about that subject area to a group or organization with which she is normally not involved. Beyond this basic definition, the exact nature of guest lecturing can vary widely. In the university context, a guest lecturer is often a faculty member who is invited to speak to a class she does not normally teach. Guest lecturers are also commonly invited to address professional and social organizations as well as elementary and secondary school groups. Finally, a guest lecturer may speak to groups of travelers, particularly on cruise ships, as part of a tourism experience.
Within the university, a guest lecturer is often a faculty member invited to deliver a lecture to a class she does not normally teach. Generally, the purpose of this arrangement is to enrich a course through the inclusion of relevant, specialized knowledge which that course’s normal lecturer does not possess. For instance, a professor teaching a course in modernist literature may invite a colleague from the university’s architecture department to deliver a guest lecture on early 20th century urban landscapes. By adding context, the information contained in the guest lecture may then broaden students’ understanding of literary texts from this period.
It is also common for professional organizations, social clubs, and elementary and secondary school groups to invite a guest lecturer to speak to them on some relevant topic. A hiking club, for instance, may ask an ecologist to deliver a lecture on minimizing environmental impact during hiking trips. Elementary or secondary schools often invite local municipal figures such as police officers and firefighters to give lectures on educational topics, like how to behave around strangers or how to minimize the chance of fire in one’s home.
Finally, a guest lecturer may speak to groups of travelers, especially on cruise ships, as part of a tourism experience. Often, these lecturers are contracted as part of a themed cruise. For example, a cruise designed for culinary enthusiasts may feature a guest lecture by a celebrity chef, while a cruise which revolves around diving may feature an address by a marine biologist. Some guest lecturers of this type may be working professionals who are simply taking a break from their normal jobs, while others may be retired professionals or may even work full time on a guest lecture circuit.