Frequently Asked Questions

There’s no such thing as a silly question!

R.E.A.L. is an acronym for four fundamental discussion skills: Relate, Excerpt, Ask, Listen.They can be used in different ways, in formal discussion or casual conversation.

R.E.A.L.® aligns to all major global curricula (IB, GCSE, Fieldwork, AP, and more) and can also work in schools where you have children following different curricula (in fact, often it can provide a critical common language and skillset for them!). If your school has built its own curriculum, our team is happy to work with you on an integration plan. 

Perhaps more important than the curriculum, though, is the “fit” with school culture! Different schools use R.E.A.L. ® differently – and we love for schools to design the R.E.A.L.® program that will fit their unique educational environment. 

Trust us when we say R.E.A.L.® has a track record of working in very diverse school cultures – progressive, traditional, public, private, religious, non-religious, etc. – and talk to Katie about how R.E.A.L.® might fit well within your school!

Absolutely. R.E.A.L.® is built to be differentiated, so during each conversation, students are all working on different skill-goals according to their unique learning path. This makes it simple – and shame-free – for ESL / ELL students to focus on one skill at a time; the goal setting, tracking, and reflection routines also help pace the conversation to support students with attentional and processing issues. 

For what it’s worth, we’ve also seen the R.E.A.L.® framework thrive in upper-level Foreign Language courses, as it can scaffold students as they begin to have robust conversations in a target language.

That’s great news! We love working with schools that have already done the hard work of identifying values and vision. Usually, we will review your plan together and then decide which “bucket” (or, often, “buckets”) R.E.A.L.®and Conversation Culture fits in best. We’ll work with you to align our content to the language you already use in your strategic plan and measure impact along the way.

R.E.A.L.® fits into the curriculum you already have (no massive overhauls needed – we promise!). For most teachers, it streamlines the logistical headaches of FishBowl one day, Harkness another, Socratic Seminar the next. For instructional leaders focused on the curriculum spiral, R.E.A.L.® is a year-long primer that builds the skills students need to succeed in upper level, seminar-style courses. (To that end, an ideal sequence is using R.E.A.L.® Jr. in 8th grade; R.E.A.L.® in 9th; and then Harkness or other seminar techniques in 10th++).

Unlike any other discussion method, R.E.A.L.® provides teachers with mission-aligned dashboards every three discussions. Dashboards measure skill development, feelings of belonging, and sense of purpose — and capture qualitative responses about the experience of discussion.

R.E.A.L. Dashboards allow classrooms to reflect – together and in way that feels safe for students – about the Conversation Culture they are building. It goes much deeper than just measuring airtime (like EquityMaps). If of interest, it can be a tool for teachers to do Action Research, too.

Launched in Fall 2022, teachers and leaders alike are reporting that this tool is a GAME CHANGER.

Want to see a sample? Happy to show you live — book a Conversation about Conversation when it works for you!

R.E.A.L.® Discussion has been built over a decade to bring together best practices from four research areas: Deeper Learning (Learning Science), Wellbeing / SEL, Belonging / DEI, and Future-of-Work. All of our PD is also built to align to best practices in adult learning. To get a sense of our rigor, here are footnotes behind the design of R.E.A.L.® from a Deeper Learning perspective: 

R.E.A.L.® Curriculum operationalizes “Deeper Learning” concepts such as: building routines for making thinking and growth visible (from Project Zero at Harvard GSE), ensuring each discussion includes the Deeper Learning triad of mastery, identity, and creativity (Jal Mehta & Sarah Fine, Deeper Learning) and the strategically spaced reflection described in Neuroteach (Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher). R.E.A.L.® materials, such as Discussion Portfolios, are designed to draw out the benefits of support screen-free face-to-face interactions (Okdie at. Al. 2007) and deepen brain engagement through handwriting (Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014); Morehead, Dunlosky, and Rawson (2019). The R.E.A.L.® methods for feedback and assessment recognizes the need for teacher agency but recommends specific frameworks to cultivate intrinsic motivation (Duckworth, 2014), document growth over time (Guskey, 2010), facilitate portfolio-based, evidence-informed assessment (Birgin 2007), and separate feedback and grading (Feldman, 2018) – all within the context of student-led discussion. Concepts like Chou and Lin’s (2015) idea of “positive Interdependence as a classroom accountability mechanism” also inform our curriculum design.

Introduce yourself here! We’ll be in touch ASAP with an invitation to meet – we can’t wait to learn more about your big dreams when it comes to Conversation Culture on your campus. 

Students and Teachers both report a sense of relief after starting to use R.E.A.L. For students, they appreciate being explicitly taught how to do something that feels scary, mysterious, and high-stakes! They also see the utility of R.E.A.L.® immediately, not just in terms of making class discussions but reflecting that it’s useful for them in life beyond school – in mock trial, in arguments with their mom, even on dates!

For teachers, it’s a tie between feedback about the magic of hearing every student’s voice and that R.E.A.L. takes the “pressure off” by giving them a go-to method for making class discussion rigorous, inclusive, and about skills not politics! Teachers also love, love, love our PLC – they come to Office Hours and “Study Sesh” calls regularly and appreciate being part of a national community of independent school educators focused on solving this critical problem.

Some faculty find it disheartening when they realize how truly challenging in-person conversations are for Gen-Z – it’s something no one likes to think about. For Humanities teachers, the early days of using R.E.A.L. – when you discover that today’s kids don’t know about eye contact, or struggle to listen actively enough to take notes, or self-censor because they’re scared of being cancelled – can be challenging. But, once the R.E.A.L. routines kick in, the learning curve is so steep that things turn from awkward to authentic very fast!

Other faculty don’t quite know what to do with their Impact Dashboards. We survey students every three discussions and provide teachers with impact reports about their class discussion dynamics – we’re working on making that data friendlier! 

Yes – we are thinking about and talking to ChatGPT constantly, and training teachers to do the same.

R.E.A.L.® is built to support teachers in a ChatGPT world, for two reasons: first, R.E.A.L.® empowers teachers with formative and summative assessment frameworks for live discussion — “in-classroom learning” — so they are less dependent on writing assignments as the only summative assignments. R.E.A.L.® shows students that the point of reading and writing is to interrogate and evolve ideas — not just produce an essay — and documents every step along the way. As one Department Chair recently said: “Our adoption of R.E.A.L.® looks prescient in a ChatGPT world!!!

Second, R.E.A.L.® Certification includes ChatGPT demos and training for teachers. We believe that teachers need to be familiar with – not afraid of – technology, even as we endeavor to teach and celebrate timeless, deeply human skills that are at the heart of Humanities classrooms 🙂 15

Just ask! We are always up for a good conversation.