Referring back to student comments as discussion touchstones

Over the course of a 90-minute whole class discussion, it can be easy to forget what was said ten minutes ago, let alone an hour ago. In this video, Julie Battilana describes how she listens carefully to student comments and then refers back to them to highlight complementaries, acknowledge a disagreement, or emphasize a particularly insightful point. By strategically referring back to these discussion touchstones, Battilana helps students develop a mental model of the class conversation and its contours.


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

  • Ask all students to use name placards in class so that you and other students can easily keep track of who said what during class.
  • Encourage students to refer back to each others’ comments or to respond directly to a previous student point to encourage all students to listen carefully and respond to one another.
  • When referring back to a prior comment to highlight a disagreement, focus the class’s attention on what rather than who is in contention.
  • According to a research review, the instructor’s discourse and facilitation of student discussions play an important role fostering collaborative learning environments (Webb, 2009).