Using pre-work to honor diverse voices and structure the discussion


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

  • Require students to electronically submit reflections or reading responses prior to class sessions and use those submissions to shape classroom instruction and ensure more thorough student preparation
  • Visually project and/or disseminate quotes from students’ written submissions to structure class sessions and afford students a sense of ownership
  • Give students advanced warning before publicly sharing their work or share the work anonymously if it is not overly personal; otherwise, trust with students may be compromised
  • A basic principle of constructivist teaching is that students learn new concepts most effectively when instructors address and activate pre-existing knowledge (Bransford et al., 1999)
  • Marrs and Novak describe how setting pre-work positively impacts student participation in areas such as improved classroom interactivity, quality and quantity of teacher-student feedback, retention, student preparedness for class, student study habits, and cognitive gains in biology college classrooms (2004)
  • One study demonstrates that flipped classrooms which require pre-work and use that pre-work to shape instruction saw improved scores on both summative assessments and student GPAs (DeRuisseau, 2016)
  • Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching outlines Just-in-Time-Teaching (JiTT),  providing tips and options for designing more active, efficient class sessions
  • An article from Review of Radical Political Economics shares methods for helping students assume more active roles in class activities by using their original thinking to shape instruction