World Café

What is it?

World Café is a structured conversational activity where learners share knowledge and ideas by discussing a topic at several tables, or “cafés”.  After learners have discussed a topic at one table, they nominate a host to remain at that table.  All other learners from that table travel to the other tables to continue the discussion there.  The host summarises that table’s previous discussion for the newly arrived travellers.  This process repeats for as many or few iterations as the educator desires.  The activity concludes with learners sharing the key points from the various discussions they accumulated over the course of their travels.

 

Why do it?
  • World Café provides a flexible format for generative group discussions. It is easily adaptable to various group sizes.
  • This activity provides learners with autonomy and ownership over their learning. Learners can select which tables they join, and in what order.  Depending on the number of tables and iterations, this enables learners to select topics and tables that match their interests, increasing their intrinsic motivation.
  • In linking ideas across tables, World Café encourages deep learning.

 

How to set it up
  • Before the session
    1. Determine the topics or questions that learners will discuss at each “café” table.
    2. Set up the room with tables in groups. Decorating each group of tables to resemble a café environment is an optional bonus.
  • During the session
    1. Introduce learners to the question or topic and explain how the activity will run.
    2. Ask learners to spread out across the tables.
    3. Once all tables are populated, ask learners to collaborate to discuss the prompt, question, or topic. Encourage learners to record their ideas on butchers’ paper, or similar.
    4. After a set period of time, ask each table to nominate one host to remain with the table. All other learners rotate to a different table.  Learners do not need to remain in the same grouping.
    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as many times as required, ensuring a different learner remains as the host for each round.
    6. Conclude the activity by inviting learners to share their discussions in a group harvest and identify common themes.
Considerations
  • There is no minimum or maximum number of times that learners can rotate between the cafés. Consider how much time you have to run this activity, and what types of questions, topics, or prompts you are setting.
Variations
  • Topic selection
    • If all tables are discussing the same topic or question, consider scaffolding the activity so that learners have to consider a new angle at each rotation.
    • Alternatively, you can assign different topics or questions to each table. This gives learners greater autonomy in directing their learning.
  • Host-less
    • You can run World Café without requiring a host to remain behind for each rotation. Learners will need to write down their discussions at the table before travelling to a new café.  Removing the host may slow down the process.  The host plays an integral role during each rotation, bringing the new travellers up to speed in a succinct manner.
Resources

Goalbook Toolkit – World Café

Jaques, D. and Salmon, G., 2007. Learning in groups: A handbook for face-to-face and online environments. Routledge.

The World Cafe