Enforcing expectations for sharp, concise comments

If efficiency and accuracy are the goal, finding a way to keep students’ contributions short becomes imperative. Doing so can grow less uncomfortable, however, once expectations are made clear about airtime. Building strong relationships with students always helps, too. In this video, to facilitate an efficient discussion, Jane Mansbridge sets explicit expectations about student contributions. In doing so, Mansbridge demonstrates that discussion and efficiency need not be mutually exclusive.


Jane Mansbridge, Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Value

Student Group



Harvard Kennedy School of Government


Democratic Theory

Group Size

~30 students

  • Set clear participation expectations at the semester’s start by outlining a protocol for making contributions
  • Model the behaviors you want your students to demonstrate
  • Check your timing and tone in responding to students
  • Build strong relationships with your students so you can exercise candor and maintain efficiency
  • A conceptual analysis discusses the importance of offering feedback to students but stresses that feedback may produce negative results if executed without clarity and intentionality (Hattie & Timperley, 2007)
  • One study finds that students’ overall performance improves when direct instruction soon follows peer interaction, a balanced approach to teaching which proves beneficial across student ability levels (Smith et al., 2011)
  • Other research indicates that the quality of student explanations improves when instructors push students to vocalize their thought processes and approaches to problems (Webb et al., 2008)