Circulating the room to elicit participation

Although the physical setup of a classroom typically points toward a lectern or podium, moving around the space intentionally can send important nonverbal signals to students. In this video, Dan Levy describes how he rarely stays “tethered to the front of the room,” especially when trying to elicit participation, stimulate debate, or encourage a particular student to venture deeper on a particular point.


Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

Student Group



Harvard Kennedy School


Advanced Quantitative Methods

Group Size

74 students

  • Engage with students throughout the room both verbally and nonverbally. Making eye contact with students who are not front and center welcomes all students into the fold rather than the select few.
  • Be expressive. Students are more likely to pay attention to instructors who employ vocal variation, humor, facial expression, movement, and gesturing.  
  • Plan your routes. Pick a couple of paths you might take in your classroom and consider how standing in those places might change the gaze and attention of your students.
  • In a review of instructor enthusiasm, Keller and colleagues define teacher enthusiasm to include nonverbal expressiveness elements such as movement and high levels of energy (2016)
  • Educational psychology students were asked to identify and analyze two recent class periods, one where they were motivated and one where they were not.  Students consistently ranked instructor enthusiasm as most important for motivation (Sass, 1989).  
  • According to Wolfe, the brain is more likely to attend to stimuli that is intense, novel, or incorporates movement (2001)