Ongoing engagement

Structured Dialogues

This pair or trio activity is ideal for reflection and also to practice focused listening.

Click on the CC icon in the bottom right corner of the video to turn on closed captions.  

Structured Dialogues
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Video conferencing
Duration: 5-30 mins

Activity purpose

This is a pair or trio activity which is ideal for reflection and also to practice focused listening. Structured dialogues can work well with teens and adults in a variety of learning contexts or communities.

Useful for

These conversations work best when you provide context for doing it first. As in, “Here’s an activity that will give you an opportunity to reflect on our topic with someone here while experiencing uninterrupted listening.”


See below.


For each dialogue, give participants a set of prompts. These are statements which typically begin with “Tell me…” They are not questions. Partners decide who will begin by delivering the prompts first and who will respond. You could describe the process as follows:

“Give your partner each prompt in turn. While he or she is responding, just listen. Please do not interrupt or interject your own thoughts. When she/he is/they are finished, respond with “Thank you” and give him/her/them the next direction. Give all of the prompts, then change roles. Try to repeat the sequence at least 2 times in each direction. When you are responding to a prompt, try to take the first thought that comes to mind, whatever it is, and try to keep your responses brief. Say what is essential, then stop.”

Repeating the process for a second or even third round allows partners to respond to each others’ thinking and potentially deepen and/or their ideas as they go. It may feel weird the first time doing it but the result is often very rewarding.

Once pairs have completed their dialogues, I strongly recommend offering everyone a way (i.e., class discussion, in writing, or voice thread) to reflect on the experience of the structured dialogue (not the content of their responses). Examples: What did you notice during the process? What was interesting? What did you find challenging?

Structured dialogues can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. You can set a time limit and remind partners to make sure that both of them get to respond to the prompts twice.


About 10-12 minutes. The video above models it from start to finish. Additional resources below give you access to the slides and additional prompt ideas you can use to adapt the slides for your own purposes.

Adaptations and examples

Crafting prompts that are more specific to your context is an excellent way to facilitate the reflection among learners.

Having learners propose/write their own prompts might be interesting after having practiced it a couple of times.

Technical requirements

Some kind of synchronous tool (even a phone can work for duos).

Useful resources

Here are 2 google slides with instructions, a recorded sample dialogue and possible prompts to choose from.

For the Digital Identity course in Digital Pedagogy Lab I recorded some structured dialogues with friends as touchpoints for discussion. You can find a sample dialogue with Chris Gilliard here.

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