Formal, Structured Conversation Is Useful for Learning

You learn a lot by talking to the right people. Informal, unstructured conversations over coffee can be surprisingly revealing.

But there’s nothing wrong with structuring conversation for particular learning. One on one or with a group, setting aside time to process a particular issue or experience for the sake of harvesting learning and growth is invaluable. It might feel forced, but it’s worth trying.

We did this in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohort I’ve written about before. Participants had 20 minutes to present an issue, and then the cohort got five minutes to ask clarifying questions followed by five minutes to offer constructive feedback. The whole thing was meticulously refereed, which made a big difference.

I’ve also used a thing called a Leadership Learning Conversation with my professional development people. It’s not as specific with the timing of things. Instead, it structures a conversation around a series of questions the presenter addresses: what is the issue, briefly stated? What is at stake with this issue? What have you already tried? What do you need?

I love being parts of these intentional conversations. Whether I’m asking the question or listening to it, I always learn something.


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