Everyone raise your hand

Close up of two raised hands in an audience

Authored by Dr Darren Harvey, Lecturer in Law (Education), Dickson Poon School of Law.

What is it?

A question is posed by the person leading the teaching session, who then instructs everybody participating in the session to raise their hand. The session leader then calls on one of the students with their hand raised and offers them three options:

  1. they can answer the question;
  2. they can ask for further clarification and/or more information on the question; or
  3. they can say that they are unsure and that they would like to pass on that question.

Crucially, the students are told in advance that it is perfectly acceptable to say that they are unsure of the answer and that they can pass the question on to a fellow student. However, in passing the question on, the first student must then call on another student that has their hand raised. A typical prompt that the session leader can give students in advance is for them to say words to the effect of “I am not sure about this question, but I’d like to hear what Danielle has to say about it”.

Having been called upon by one of her fellow student’s, Danielle is then presented with the same three options above. Once Danielle is finished with what she has to say on the question, she then chooses another student in the group that has a hand raised so that they can engage with the question. This process is repeated until the session leader is happy that the question has been dealt with in sufficient detail and a new question can then be posed.

Why do it?

Asking all students in the room to raise their hands is a highly effective way of boosting student participation in discussions. By requiring students to raise their hand and to offer a response (even if it is to simply say that they are not sure) students are actively engaged in the classroom discussion from the beginning of the session. The act of raising one’s hand and speaking on a regular basis quickly builds confidence to contribute. It ensures that students are involved in more than simply listening and guarantees that all students in the session are given multiple opportunities to think and talk about the discipline. Participation is further enhanced by the practice of asking students to call upon their fellow students to continue answering the question. This leads to students learning one another’s names quickly and builds familiarity in the classroom.

The “everyone raise your hand” technique is also very effective for small to medium sized group teaching online. Microsoft Teams has a “show participants” button which allows everyone on the call to see the names of all those participating in the session. This makes it easy for students to quickly consult the list of attendees and to select a name from the list when they are required to call on a fellow student to continue answering a question.

How is it set up?

Staff leading the group teaching session pose a question to the group as a whole. Then, all students participating in the class are asked to raise their hands and the first student is chosen to begin responding to the question in light of the three options that the session leader has presented them with.


It’s important that everybody behaves respectfully towards one another and that everybody understands from the outset that it is perfectly acceptable to pass a question on to a fellow student.

Ideally, the questions chosen by the session leader will not have one, verifiably correct answer and should be well-suited to being addressed from different points of view.

The session leader should seek to ensure that the same students are not being called on regularly and that all students in the room are given multiple opportunities to contribute

Examples and resources

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash 

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