Technologies for Conversation

This collection of tools and protocols are referenced within Michael Palmisano's NCLE book titled Taking Inquiry Scale: An Alternative to Traditional Approaches to Education Reform. A team’s inquiry process can be strengthened by providing structures for open and engaging conversation related to a group’s learning focus.  The tools in this particular collection come from a variety of sources and many have been adapted by the Ball Foundation for large and small group conversations that focus on questions of teaching and learning.

Effective collaborative inquiry depends on a group’s ability to engage in open, collegial conversation about the focus of inquiry. Groups can balance the need for rigorous learning and practice through learning strategies that foster high energy and engagement.

Conversational methods such as World Café, Fishbowl, and Open Space bring diverse perspectives and voices into conversations that lead to shared meaning, agreements, and action. Protocols for conversation such as Process Learning Circles enable communities of practice to learn more effectively with and from one another. Explore one or more of these strategies with your own groups using the guidelines included with each method. The Adaptive Action Templates assist collaborative teams as they work through their own inquiry process.


World Café Conversational Practice
"World Café" is a conversational process for groups that generates new ideas and explores action possibilities around real-life issues and questions.

Open Space Technology
Open Space Technology is a process that supports conversations around important issues.  Not “technology” in the traditional sense, Open Space Technology provides a framework for difficult discussions to be held effectively with large groups, either in person or virtually.

Fishbowl Conversational Practice
The “fishbowl” process of observation and conversation is useful for reaching a shared understanding of organizational and instructional issues.  A discussion group of 5-8 people is surrounded by a larger group.  Called a “fishbowl” because the larger group watches and listens to the smaller discussion group, the groups merge at the end of the conversation.  This resource could be very helpful for professional groups trying to reach consensus on issues such as RtI plans, strategic planning action steps, instructional groupings within teams, etc.

Collaborative Inquiry Circles
Collaborative Inquiry Circles is a conversational process that guides participants of small groups in building a culture of collaboration as they learn with and from one another in the context of shared practice.

Adaptive Action Templates (or Inquiry Guides)
Pursuing collaborative inquiry as adaptive action takes communities of practice through cycles of observing (identifying patterns in student learning and performance as well as patterns of practice and organizational conditions), planning, acting, and reflecting, which returns inquirers to the critical step of observing. Groups engaged in this process may find these templates helpful in supporting their inquiry efforts.

View more tools and protocols available on the Literacy in Learning Exchange.


Access to many of these adapted resources has been provided by the Ball Foundation, an NCLE Stakeholder Organization.