I am reading Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis” along with about 50 other men in our church’s Friday morning men’s group, and came across the following passage recently which resonated with me as a teacher. Rob wrote:

Tour guides are people who see depth and texture and connections where others don’t. That is why the best teachers are masters of the obvious. They see the same things that we do, but they are aware of so much more. And when they point it out, it changes the way we see everything.

I love this analogy, and think this can be a powerful way to frame and structure learning tasks for students. Don’t just tell me about your topic. Become the tour guide. Show me what I could not easily see, identify, or discern for myself. Uncover the stories underneath the surface, the details and connections which weave a tapestry of greater meaning and understanding for listeners and viewers.

When I taught a week-long course for university instructors and professors in the Dominican Republic several years ago about online learning strategies, my wife and I had a delightful opportunity to spend an entire day with the director of the university’s department of travel and tourism who led us around Santo Domingo.

With our knowledgeable guide on day 1

I was struck at the time by what a challenging but rewarding job he had, and helped others learn to do effectively. A good tour guide has broad knowledge about the history, culture, economics, social dynamics, and other aspects of a particular place and the individuals who live there. Spending time with an excellent tour guide is a delight, not because they are simply filled with a multitude of facts, but because they have the ability to stitch and weave those details together in a larger tapestry of understanding.

Perhaps we can benefit from framing our roles as learners, whether we are formally defined as teachers or students, as “tour guides” for others? I think the demonstration of higher order thinking is a required job skill for effective tour guides.

The Revised Bloom's Taxonomy

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  • I like the idea of thinking of my job as a tour guide. It reminds me to give the students time to observe and reflect on the “sites” or their learning. This is a great part of tourism. Spending time observing and experiencing the area. Let’s do that in the classroom – give students time to observe, experience, reflect while we guide.

  • Lisa: You point out that the role of “guide” is focused on helping others experience a particular place and context. Authentic learning must be tied to real experiences, in my view, and this is also why I like this analogy. We hear people talk about teachers being the “guide on the side,” but I’m not sure I can form as developed a picture of what that looks like as I can when someone says “tour guide.” Background experiences are important. If students haven’t been with an accomplished tour guide, this analogy may not work for them. I like the concept that a tour guide is encouraging others to explore on their own, ask questions, and interact actively with their environment. A good tour guide (in my view) doesn’t want those on the “trip” to remain passive. Their own learning as well as enjoyment of the experience will be sharply limited if they remain passive. By becoming active participants in the tour, asking questions and reflecting (as you said) everyone learns more and “gets more” out of the experience.

  • @Wes
    Since you mentioned Friday morning Bible study you might be interested in the works of Luigi Giusanni. This late Italian priest from the 1950’s is gaining much popularity for his take on how catechesis best works. Your tour guide analogy hits the nail on the head not only for good teaching but also good catechesis. The Guisani method is very relevant. If you have time give it a look.

  • In todays world with so many innovation we can just google the place information, but its always good to listen from the person who has been there since his/her childhood, there experience is always amazing.

  • Yasser Mourad

    hiiiiiiiiiii, i am egyptian tour guide and i have a lot to say about my homeland civilization more accurate than google 🙂 🙂 🙂

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