The Conversation Loop: Foster Learning Through Experience Sharing – Tip #181

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If you have a problem at work, what do you usually do?

Let’s take this simple example. Say the office has a new printer with lots of new and hi-tech features. You’re not familiar with how to use it yet, and you need to print a very important document ASAP. Do you

a) check the manual and try to figure out how to use it or b) ask your co-workers for help?

The Conversation Loop

In the scenario above, you most probably picked option b—you probably don’t know where the printer manual is nor do you have the time and energy to flip through its pages. Asking for help from your co-workers seems to be the better and easier thing to do.

Here’s how option b might play out:

You approach a co-worker and tell them your problem. (story or incident)
Your co-worker shares how they used the new printer. (sharing of experiences)
You try printing the document following your co-worker’s “instructions.” (learning)

I call this process, the Conversation Loop. It looks like this:

Experience Sharing

The Conversation Loop represents the natural flow of our casual conversations with others. Hearing what other people have to say about something helps widen our outlook. By comparing our perspectives with that of others, we can see what we may have overlooked, allowing us to connect ideas and retrieve memories of our own experiences.

In training and development, we can make use of the Conversation Loop through the following format:

Incident > Goal > Conversation Questions

This is what happened. It tells us what the problem is. It is the story.

The incident or situation serves as a trigger or kickstarter to experience sharing. It opens the mind to relevant experiences that facilitate learning.

Remember that embedded in a situation is a lesson. Choose the situation wisely because every situation results in a different conversation. The situation you choose should be in line with your goals.


This is what you want learners to learn. It is the learning objective and what you want learners to take away from the lesson or story.  

Conversation Questions

These are directive questions that guide learners to share experiences that are relevant to the topic or problem at hand. Allow learners to share their experiences; otherwise, they are merely listening and won’t remember anything.

Conversation Questions add more context to the story or incident and force learners to change how they think or their focus.

For example, a big explosion occurred while firefighters were putting out a fire. How would you frame the questions if you were training a team of firefighters? How about if you’re training insurance sales agents? Your questions would change because the problems these groups are trying to solve are different.

Related tip: How Story Characters Help Learners Learn Difficult and Sensitive Topics – Tip #169

The key to achieving your learning objective then, is to change the question.

If you want to learn more about the Conversation Loop and Experience Sharing, check out my webinar on “Why Story and Experience Sharing Accelerate Learning.” Listen to the recording or download the handout.


Why Story and Experience Sharing Accelerate Learning (recording) (handout)
Tip #43 – How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson
Tip #111 – Why Stories Drive Social Learning
Tip #169 – How Story Characters Help Learners Learn Difficult and Sensitive Topics
Tip #172 – 3 Examples of Microlearning Lesson Storyboards

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”