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
Synchronous or Asynchronous
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.

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:
Language Portrait
Francesca Helm
Wheel of Life for Student Self-help
The Wheel of Life provides a snapshot of your wellbeing and the level of satisfaction in your current circumstances.
Maha Bali
Equity Unbound Activity
Simple Metacognitive Activities
Some simple questions that can help students develop their metacognitive learning skills.
Maha Bali

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