Learning conversation: a teaching method that gets more out of the students

Would you like to get more out of the students during the lesson? Use the learning conversation! 

What is a learning conversation? 

A learning conversation is a conversation where you as a lecturer lead the student(s) to particular insights or solutions to a problem. As a lecturer, you ask structured questions and through questions and answers, you gradually build an argument. You can use this method to build a new theory or, for example, to initiate a classroom discussion relating to an assignment.  

How do you build up a learning conversation? 

Activate the prior knowledge of the students. You can do that as follows: 

  • Start with familiar learning material from your current or a previous course unit. 
  • Start with general questions on the subject. 
  • Use visual elements to support the problem statement. For example, show a photo, cartoon or video clip. 

Furthermore, make sure that the conversation proceeds structured and step-by-step. Therefore, the points of interest listed below are important. 

Finally, it is essential that you finish the conversation and come to a conclusion. You can give this yourself or even better: let a student do it. 

What are the points of interest in a learning interview? 

Prepare the interview properly 

Make sure you are well prepared. It is important to have a clear structure in mind and that you prepare some questions for each step in advance. A tool for this is to create a schedule for yourself (which you can also display on the board for your students). Furthermore, it is also important to determine what prior knowledge and possible thinking errors you can expect from the students. 

Pay enough attention to the management of the conversation 

Build up the conversation by asking the right questions. Make sure you ask specific, clear questions and ask one question at the a time. Go into the students' answers. Give tips when students lose focus. 

Also, make sure you don’t spend too much time on one student. Elaborate sufficiently on the question or involve the rest of the group, but avoid doing so only when you get an incorrect answer from the student. 

Don't let the learning conversation last longer than 20 minutes. 

Create a safe learning environment 

Encourage students to express their ideas. Always respond to an answer in a supportive way and question the underlying reasoning. Emphasise that it is OK if students make a mistake. 

Want to know more? 

  • BV-databank (2013). Onderwijsleergesprek. Verkregen op 18.06.2013, https://www.bvdatabank.be/node/106
  • Expertisecentrum Hoger Onderwijs, ECHO. (2013). Vijftig Onderwijstips. Antwerpen: Garant. 
  • Kallenberg, A.J.; Van Der Grijspaarde, L.; Ter Braak, A. & Van Horzen, C.J. (2006). Leren (en) doceren in het hoger onderwijs. Utrecht: uitgeverij Lemma B.V. 
  • Manusereh, H. (2012). The Effect of Dialogic Teaching on Students' Critical Thinking Disposition. Social and Behavioral Sciences, n° 69, 1358-1368 
  • Svinicki, M.; McKeachie, W. (2011). McKeachie's Teaching Tips. Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. Belmont USA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Last modified Jan. 26, 2021, 4:20 p.m.