Learning Cafe

1.1   Description

The learning café is a way to encourage discussion, information creation, and sharing which is suitable for bigger groups. At a learning cafe event, participants are divided into tables, each table discusses the same topic or problem from a separate point of view. At each table there is a host who remains on the same table as the other group members move from one table to another, going through all the tables and participating in each discussion. The results of the discussion are written on table cloth or paper during the discussion. The first group that sits at the table starts the discussion and the conversation continues as the groups change.

Once the first group is sitting at the starting tables of the learning café, the discussion begins with a suitable stimulus or question. The group members around each table discuss and write, with the table host helping to construct their ideas and thoughts. The table host must keep an eye on the time limit, after the time is up, the group members will move to the next table. The transition can be made either systematically or occasionally but the objective is that the same group visits every table together. Each group changes tables so that every group member has visited each table.

Setting: Create a relaxing environment, i.e. small round tables covered with writable table cloth, coloured pens. There should be four to six places at each table. it is better than the participants stand than sit – it keeps the discussion alive! Each table has its own host whose task is to introduce the topic and keep the discussion going on.


1.2   Objective

The purpose of this activity is to create a relaxed atmosphere, encourage discussion, and share ideas and opinions about a topic, this could be anything scientific or relevant (i.e. medicine, robotics, AI, science communication). The group members will develop a deeper understanding about the topic.

The objective of this event is to develop a shared understanding of the topic, which can be shared with others with the notes written on a table cloth.


1.3   Structure

General Structure: Single Event

This event could be organised once, so it is a single event but it could be repeated on a monthly basis during one semester.


1.4   Duration

Main Event Duration: Few Hours
Project Duration: A school semester

The duration of a single event is normally three to four hour including a coffee break but if repeated on a monthly basis, the duration is 16 hours (4X4).

2.1    Staff & Volunteers

Volunteer Requirements: Core organising team only

The event requires the main organiser, who could be, for instance, a teacher of the topic. Each table needs to have a table host, so the number of hosts depends on the size of the group. If the group size is 30, you need six hosts for six tables. The table host should be familiar with the topic and have some facilitating skills.
Teacher 4 hours, 50 euro per hour = 200 euro
Table host 4 hours, 30 euro per hour = 120 x 6 = 720 euro
Although if this event is done in collaboration with an organisation it may be possible to find volunteers to work for much less or free.


2.2    Venue Hire

Venue: Indoor
Capacity: 30 people

Venue needs to be indoors and should be big enough at least for 30 people. In the room there should be space for several tables, for example a classroom.

Venue hire for four hours approximately 500 euro. Again these costs may be reduced if done in collaboration with another organisation.


2.3    Partner Institutions

Partner Institutions: Not required

Partner Institutions are not required but this kind of event is easy to organise together with an organisation.


2.4    Budget

Yearly / Project Budget: 10,000€

Include here a budget estimate for your own country. Make sure to specify the exact number of hours, items required etc. to make it easier for others to project the cost in their locality. Cost can be greatly reduced if this event is done in collaboration with another company/institute.

Personnel Fees 920 euro
Venue Hire 500 euro
If repeated four times in a semester 5680

3.1   Target Audience

Target Audience: secondary school or younger adults

The target audience is secondary school or younger adults but it could be organised also with older adults and pensioners.


3.2   Marketing

Participants for this kind of event will be recruited by intranet or digital bullet boards of the school or university. Enrolment direct to the teacher.


3.3   Dialogic Strategy

The whole idea of the learning cafe is to create a relaxing atmosphere to make people discuss and share ideas.

4.1   Project Timeline

The first stage is to plan the content of the Learning Cafe, create the evaluation from, reserve the venue, purchase the materials required, and recruit the table hosts. Depending on the topic this should take one to two weeks.

The second stage is to send out invitations to the learning cafe and collect the details of the people who enrol. This takes about 2 weeks.

The third stage is to organise and run the Learning Cafe and collect feedback.


4.2   Single Event Structure

1) Organising the venue: tables, table cloths, and pens. Informing the table hosts. Preparing the evaluation form.

2) The table host welcomes and gives instruction. The table host begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the Learning Café process, setting the context, sharing the Cafe Etiquette, and putting participants at ease.

3) Small Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more twenty-minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. The table host asks group members to discuss the table topic and write down the most important issues about the topic on the table cloth. At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table, only the table host stays. The table host welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round. The table host takes care that the discussion continues and the next group adds its ideas to the tablecloth.

4) Questions: each round is prefaced with a question specially crafted for the specific topic and desired purpose of the Learning Café. The same questions can be used for more than one round, or they can be built upon each other to focus the conversation or guide its direction.

5) Harvest: After the small groups the table host introduces the ideas and results written on the table cloth. Also, the group members are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results are reflected visually in a variety of ways.

6) Evaluation

7) Instructions to the next time if repeated otherwise thank you and goodbye!

4.3   Personnel roles

Topic teacher and the table hosts decide the topics to discuss and organise the classroom.

4.4   Materials

Six tables are needed, as well as paper table cloth and coloured pens


4.5   Other Logistics

Coffee and water during the coffee break.

Having a group discussion is a good way to share ideas and opinions about difficult topics. When the atmosphere is relaxing, it is easier for people to participate and group members are more willing to ask questions, it is also easier to explain concepts to small groups. The participants get to know the other people in the group because of the small group small (max six people).

Peer and self-evaluation after the Learning Cafe.

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Event Duration

Project Duration


Location Capacity

Partner Institutions


Cite this Activity

Drake, M., & Styles, C. (2020, October 21). Learning Cafe. Retrieved from http://steamexperiments.com/activity/learning-cafe/

First published: October 21, 2020
Last modified: October 21, 2020

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