Liberating Structures, Ongoing engagement

Conversation Cafe

Engage everyone in making sense of profound challenges. Use to address difficult or confusing topics.

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Conversation Cafe
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Video conferencing, Breakout rooms, Shared online space
Duration: 5-30 mins

Activity purpose

According to the Liberating Structures website, it “engages everyone in making sense of profound challenges. It can be used to address difficult or confusing topics, build trust and share perspectives.”

Useful for

Encouraging equitable conversations and perspective-taking. Encouraging constructive listening.


Prompt, instructions, and space for students to take notes.


This activity involves sending students into breakout rooms of 4-5 with timed rounds of conversation to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to participate. They will need one person to be the “host” and manage time and take notes (though you could split those roles).

Detailed Liberating Structures description:

Virtual conversation cafe description here.


At a minimum: Around 16 minutes if you have 4 participants per group, or 20 minutes if you have 5 participants in the group. However, you can increase the time for the “open” round of conversation to 10 minutes instead of 4-5.

Adaptations and examples


Technical requirements

Breakout rooms and either asking students to record them, or take notes in a shared space like a Google slide or Google doc.

Useful resources

More 'Liberating Structures' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
PowerPoint Karaoke
Engage students in improv presenting, and enhance oral presentation skills in a light and humorous way.
Maha Bali, Jasmina Najjar, Hoda Mostafa
Equity Unbound Activity
Tiny Tales
Encourage short, focused storytelling, easy to share with others, writing stories in 100 words (or fewer), or 6 words or 2 sentences, etc.
Laura Gibbs
Equity Unbound Activity
Cognitive/exam Wrappers for Metacognition
Help students reflect on their exam/assessment performance in order to improve future performance in your course.
Maha Bali

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