Conversation Theory refers to a learning theory developed by Gordon Pask originated from a cybernetics framework and attempts to explain learning in both living organisms and machines.

The fundamental idea of this theory was that learning occurs through conversations about a subject matter which serve to make knowledge explicit. Conversations can be conducted at a number of different levels: natural language (general discussion), object languages (for discussing the subject matter), and metalanguages (for talking about learning/language). In order to facilitate learning, Pask argued that subject matter should be represented in the form of entailment structures which show what is to be learned. Entailment structures exist in a variety of different levels depending upon the extent of relationships displayed (e.g., super/subordinate concepts, analogies). The critical method of learning according to Conversation theory is "teachback" in which one person teaches another what they have learned.

Pask identified two (2) different types of learning strategies:

  • Serialists who progress through an entailment structure in a sequential fashion and
  • Holists who look for higher order relations.

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