Encouraging students to respond to each other

Exchanges that proceed from student to student without professor serving as mediator can be extremely valuable. As students hash out points of disagreement, the class hears multiple perspectives more constructively than they would during the traditional, professor-driven lecture. In this video, Todd Rakoff pivots between two student comments to encourage students to more actively respond to each other.


Todd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law

Student Group



Harvard Law School


Legislation & Regulation

Course Details

80 students

Additional Details

First-year requisite

  • Students experience significantly higher learning gains and better conceptual understanding when taught through a more interactive classroom format as opposed to traditional lectures (Knight & Wood, 2005)
  • Even when groups of students do not initially know the correct answer, research has shown that peer discussion leads to improved conceptual understanding (Smith et al., 2009)
  • Students self-report more positive attitudes towards sociology when tasked to work and learn collaboratively in undergraduate introductory sociology courses (Killian & Bastas, 2015)
  • Model what it sounds like to respond to a student’s idea (e.g., “Sara brought up something I hadn’t considered”; “To add on to Paulo’s point…”)
  • Encourage students to make eye contact with their classmates as they speak rather than exclusively with the professor. Quick reminders or nonverbal cues can be helpful in reminding students to direct their contributions to the class, not merely to their instructors.
  • Set clear expectations for the types of comments that advance a discussion. Demonstrate appropriate times for students to ask classmates for clarification or elaboration of a particular point.