The Education Café®
The Education Café® is an event based unashamedly on the form of public engagement known as Science Cafés/Cafés Scientifiques, first developed in Leeds as far back as the 1990s by the late Duncan Dallas.
An Education Café® consists of three sections: an introduction of no more than half an hour, which is essentially to give information and identify issues, a second half-hour in which the participants divide into groups of around 5 or 6 to discuss the questions raised, and a closing plenary session that gives everyone an opportunity to bring questions back to the speaker(s). We don’t ask the sub-groups to report back to the others, nor do we aim to achieve a consensus. In that respect, the ‘process’ of the event is more important than the outcome – although we do intend that participants may act and think a little differently as a result of their experience.
The brand name ‘Education Café’ is registered to the Society for Total Education, and when we began (pre-pandemic) we were holding events in a café with a view to setting up a wider network of face-to-face activities. The pandemic intervened and Zoom gave us a much wider reach, together with the opportunity to bring in speakers from distant locations without travel costs and inconvenience. Although we have plans for resuming some in-person events, the online Cafés will retain an important place in our programme.
Our audience is very varied in both character and number. You can be sure that they are all interested in the betterment of education for everyone – and that they will be positively inclined towards creative approaches and new ways of working. There is often a wide age distribution – from students to retirees – and a corresponding range of experience and prior knowledge.
A successful event often has …
- a stimulating introduction which may include some slides, but often works well as a presentation without visuals. People are interested in people. It’s important to avoid trying to compress a one-hour lecture into 20 minutes!
- a set of questions or issues to think about in the small group discussion which forms part 2 of the event.
- a free-flowing Q&A session to conclude, in which the speakers can be asked to provide more detail, different examples or respond to challenges.
- something to ‘take home’, be it a reading list, reference to a key article or website, some slides from the presentation – or even a key image.