Engaging in extended dialogue with students

Facilitating a strong case discussion involves not only asking students questions but carefully listening to their responses and following up. In this video, Julie Battilana describes how she frequently stays with a student after asking them a question and poses repeated follow-ups to ensure that both she and the rest of the class have fully understood the student’s thinking. Though being questioned by your professor may sound intimidating at first, Battilana uses this move to convey that she is deeply interested in and attentive to students’ ideas -- that she is “with them” rather than “against them.”


Julie Battilana, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration (Harvard Business School), Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation (Harvard Kennedy School)

Student Group



Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School


Power and Influence

Group Size

85 students

Additional Details

Second year course

  • Practice moving towards students and using a curious, conversational tone to convey to students that you are seeking to understand them rather than interrogate them. 
  • The opening question in a case is a good opportunity for an extended dialogue, but it also places considerable pressure on one student. Consider following up with other students to spread out airtime amongst the class.
  • If students struggle to answer your follow-up questions, try to reformulate the question or provide some scaffolding.


  • According to a research review, the instructor’s discourse and facilitation of student discussions play an important role fostering a collaborative learning environment (Webb, 2009).
  • When instructors’ responses to students are clear, purposeful, and meaningful, students are better able to understand the information intended to be learned and develop metacognitive strategies for future learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). 
  • Using student comments to scaffold content, highlight key points, and introduce just-in-time information is central to the effective use of cases (Ramaekers et al., 2011).