Home >> Content >> Expert Advice

Search form

About The Blogger

Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
Back to Blog

Expert Advice

The conversation went something like this:


So how is nuclear energy used in everyday life?


Have you ever had an X-Ray taken?


My sister has.


Well~ that radiation~ thats a form of nuclear energy.


Oh~ O.K.

The above interview took place recently between one of my fifth-grade students and a researcher at the University of South Florida. The student~ part of the gifted program at the school~ was investigating nuclear energy as part of an independent research project. To encourage him to seek out resources beyond the Internet~ I secured the student an interview~ which took place using a speaker phone in my office.

The result was the student grew excited about what he had learned and made a connection with a professional in an area he was interested. Not to mention~ he worked on his interviewing and note-taking skills in the process.

That brings me to the point of this blog: using resources outside the classroomin this case~ experts in various fieldsis an effective method to inform~ inspire~ and enlighten students to new possibilities.

The concept of guest speakers in the classroom is not new~ but what I am encouraging is connecting students~ individually or in small groups~ with professionals and experts in areas of interest. Schoolwork takes on a whole new meaning when students get to interact with adults that have already accomplished the things they want to do. In addition~ these professionals provide a new perspective and (in my case) provide a much deeper expertise in that field.

Just recently~ I scheduled a local investment firm to come speak to my fourth-grade students~ who have been playing the Stock Market Game. The investor schooled them on the Dow Jones~ projected earnings~ and other concepts that I can barely explain myself. The students were able to make real-world connections with the lessons they were learning in school and the outside world.

Bringing in experts also provides students with a pathway~ a vision~ towards their future career goals and hopefully inspires them to become more. Perhaps if they see new possibilities~ ones that they may have not glimpsed in their homes or neighborhoods~ they can strive for larger goals.

That said~ let me provide some insight on how to schedule experts to help students with research and learning.


Theres no big secret to how to find experts. Simply ask them if they will help. I send an e-mail introducing myself and explaining the project~ and then I ask if they could help through either coming to the school or conducting a phone or e-mail interview. By giving them options~ you eliminate the concern that the interview will take too much time.


When looking for a certain professional or type of business~ ask around. I have found that if I send a school-wide e-mail or e-mail parents~ someone always seems to know the type of person I am seeking. Case in point: I had a student interested in designing sports stadiums so I e-mailed an engineering firm. The person with the firm was able to refer me to another firm that actually built the local football stadium.


If scheduling an on campus interview~ make sure you follow screening procedures. The school where I work requires that visitors or guest speakers complete a volunteer form and undergo a background check before stepping on campus Make sure you cover your bases in this department.


Have students prepare for their interview with the expert by writing down a list of questions they want to ask. You may even want to have them practice the interview first. Remember~ professionals are busy~ working folks~ and you dont want to waste their time.


Currently~ I am creating a spreadsheet contact list of the experts that I want to use with future classes. Keeping an organized list of experts~ categorized by various topics~ will save me time later. Over the years~ the list can grow to dozens of people in the community~ who can help your students.

Connecting your students with experts in fields that interest them is a fantastic way to bring the real-world to your classroom. The practice will provide your students with opportunities to gain deeper knowledge and help them build the research and interviewing skills that can help them succeed. Above all~ it can allow young people to see new possibilities and inspire them to pursue their passions and dreams.

To share your thoughts on this topic~ please visit the Innovative Teaching group athttp://community.educationworld.comcontent/expert-opinion?gid=NTEyMQ==