Some Tips For Interviewing
Set up appointments well in advance. Be prepared for some people to flake out. It may take 2-3 attempts for you to land the interview.
Because your inquiry is about education, of course you will feel that your interviews should naturally take place in classrooms. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can talk over lunch, in a park, or even at the interviewee’s house or place of work. Doing this will give your overall footage a sense of variety.
When picking interview spots, the most crucial thing you should do is to “scout” the location for its potential background audio problems. As a general rule, filming indoors will allow you to control your sound more, but there is something to be said for conducting the interview in an interesting outdoor locale, like near a river or on a balcony, etc. The key is to first determine if the background ambient sound will be a distraction or not.
When you do film in a classroom, take a few minutes to determine if the room has any interesting visual aspects that you can include in the scene. Maybe there are interesting “props” in the room, like maps or globes or science equipment. Our CTE schools have a great opportunity in this regard, because their classrooms are often such visually interesting places.
When interviewing listen carefully to what they say. That may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often the interviewer is reading their own interview questions, or adjusting the camera, and in so doing, they don’t hear some important tidbit delivered by the interviewee that would make for a very powerful follow-up question.
Let them do the talking. This too may seem very obvious, but you would be amazed how easy it is for the interviewer to start in discussing the issue at hand with the interviewee, and next thing you know you have 30 minutes of footage in which the interviewer has talked for 20 minutes of it! (Or maybe I am just talking about myself here!)
Try to make the interview as comfortable as possible for both you and the interviewee. The more the process feels like a regular conversation—in which you are playing the part of attentive listener—the better. In other words, try not to cling too much to your “10 questions.” It can give the interview a kind of stilted or canned feel.
If the interviewee talks fast, or gets themself lost, or their answer peters out…it is perfectly OK to ask them to repeat themselves. Often their second attempt uncovers new aspects of their answer. Another tip is to rephrase your question if it feels like the interviewee is struggling a bit.
Once people warm up don’t be surprised if they don’t shut up. Don’t be surprised if they get off track. Find gentle ways to steer them back.
Group interviewing may work for you.
Consider showing your questions to the interviewee ahead of time. This allows them to focus in on where you are headed. (Interviewees WANT to do well.)
VERY IMPORTANT: Avoid posing YES/NO Style questions. It is MUCH harder to compose questions that are NOT yes/no in style, but obviously yes/no questions limit severely the interviewee. You will want to take the time to come up with more open-ended questions. You may notice that one strategy of seasoned interviewers is to not even really ASK questions. But rather they will frequently state their own premises or biases or hunches and ask the interviewee to comment on that. This may feel a bit like “leading the witness” but in our experience interviewees are very comfortable about—and capable of—supplying their own counter-hunch.
If your first 2-3 interviewees all give you more-or-less the same responses, try coming up with questions that create a little controversy.
Also, It’s perfectly fine to say, “John says ‘blah blah blah” about the topic. What is your response to that, Maria?”
Have fun…remember to breathe…
Students as Co-inquirers: Thoughts from a former student inquirer
Rummaging through my computer, I found some stuff from my student researcher days. Students as co-inquirers interpret student intakes differently than teachers. The making visible crew and I were able to see beyond the words on paper because we know what students do, when they are making excuses, fearing authority or lacking self-confidence. We were going through the exact same things. Students as co-inquirers are incredibly resourceful in interpreting student data and in educational reform.
Remember, student researchers don’t have to be enrolled in the class they are studying. In fact our making visible team was composed of four determined poets who had taken a few classes together. We often brought in our friends, class mates, or entire classrooms that we thought would add to our content, or fill gaps in our movies. And what a great experience it was for us! Now here I am, former student researcher, encouraging you to use students to assist you in your inquiry.
Here’s an example of the work we started with for our first project in 2005: reading and typing 150 student intake essays on the question, “what’s your relationship with reading,” pulling out themes, common threads and concepts. Our motto: When in doubt, grab the camera!Happy Inquiry!
101A (one below entry level english) Trends
- Believe that they shouldn’t have to re-read the text/novel
- That it makes them read slower and the processes is drown out
- On the contrary, students admit that more reading only improves their skills.
- In conclusion, the students are discouraged and frustrated by this factor, and thus tend to not enjoy reading.
- They then feel alone in the situation.
- From my own experience, I know that EVERYONE has to read and re-read in order to truly understand the text.
- My solution to this is learning how to actively read. Writing notes in the margins, reading at least twice, finding the main idea, discussions, applying the concept, etc.
- The students only want to read things that interest them or directly relate, which I believe is a natural instinct.
- However, it leads them to be biased against certain areas of literature, such as poetry, texts, etc.
- Thus staying inside their own box and not exposing themselves to their ideas, environments, vocabulary words, cultures, etc.
- “My point of view you won’t learn anything you’re not interested in or like it…”
- Yet, a handful of students, both readers and non-readers, admit that reading improves your knowledge, vocab, and yourself.
- My conclusion is that these students are perhaps afraid of the unknown.
- Or maybe they have an authority issue, and don’t like taking orders or assignments from instructors that they don’t know and respect or that aren’t themselves.
- The solution: maybe having instructors introduce themselves; their interests, credentials, their experiences as a student, where they are from, whatever, in order to expose the students to their instructor.
- Maybe that would wipe away they fear and intimidation by some of the students, making them more comfortable to open themselves up.
- I don’t really know how to fix the fear of the unknown, I think it’s a natural feeling and that its an individual battle.
- It seems that the trends are predictable in this 101A class.
- Their ideas are somewhat based on their skill level and exposure.
- Even though the trends tend to be similar, there are different situations, excuses, and examples. (Some being more interesting than others)
Interesting Comments and Response
- Enjoys reading newspapers and novels only.
- Has a negative attitude towards textbooks.
- States that text books are for learning only and one should pay attention to the author’s opinion and purpose.
- My question is, shouldn’t we always look for the author’s bias and purpose? And especially in novels and newspapers!!
- A reader should always ask themselves questions, or question the author’s statements.
- Dyslexia without good teaching: it held her back greatly, being at a fifth to sixth grade level in High School.
- Thus was discouraged early and learned to hate reading
- This, I believe caused her to have a low self esteem
- And once a teacher exposed her to techniques of reading, gave her attention and confidence, she was encouraged to read and now she can’t stop! Despite its difficulty.
- My question to her would be, how long did you go without being diagnosed?
- How did you feel in those degrading ‘special ed classes?’
- Did any one else try to reach out to you? Or did everyone just ignore your severe disability?
- Didn’t read a book until the last year of H.S and believes that short stories are better because they are short.
- Can only read if there is some sort of background distraction- does that truly help the info stick?
- Refers to self as ‘kids nowadays’ –Maybe suggests a low self esteem.
- Grammar is poor: a reflection of not reading and paying attention in school.
- Question: How did you graduate high school without ever reading the books?
- “hard to get kids to read because they are used to having everything done for them”
- Is that quote a sort of cop out? An excuse to give up and not even try? To just continue to be a lazy student scarping by?
- “if I want a lengthy build up to a great ending then I’ll watch a movie, that takes far less time invested”
- Isn’t a ‘reader’
- Wants the quick fix
- Never finished a book in H.S- didn’t anyone notice? How did he pass?
- Says that no book is of interest because he doesn’t like to read and is unable to make himself relate in novels and texts.
- Don’t you think that you aren’t a reader because you didn’t read as a young child when your brain and skills are still developing?
- Do you feel cheated or guilty?
- “I could almost guarantee the amount of pleasure reading declines with each generation”
- Why do you think that is? Because of the young students like you who want the quick fix, movies, technology, caring only about the self and the self’s interests?
Choosing Your Teams:
Pick your team for a mix of skills. As we have said elsewhere, we think it is beyond crucial that at least one member of your student team have tech skills—esp. video editing—as well as general tech savvy.
The kinds of work skills you will want to look for in your student workers are the same you might seek in any job that involves working in teams. You will expect your student workers to: take responsibility, take initiative, show some maturity, keep drama to a minimum, etc.
What you might look for in student workers in terms of what they will bring to the Inquiry: we all have had the experience of having a student in our class that we think would make a great teacher, and we may have even told her so. That kind of student is what you are looking for here. They have “court vision”—to use a basketball metaphor–about the goings-on in a classroom—in other words, they have an awareness that is broader than simply their own place and actions in the class. They often offer insights about fellow students in the class. They are often the main person keeping a group activity moving in the right direction. They have insights about education and may see the big picture culturally and socially in regards to where education fits. They seem empathetic. Don’t despair about finding this kind of student; they aren’t that rare. After all, you yourself were just such a student! Read the rest of this entry »
There are many ways to capture Student Voices. We hope the list below offers some starting points for you and your team. We will add to this list as we begin to hear other ideas from FIN teams.
- Faculty interviews student .
- Student interviews student.
- Student interviews herself—self-reflection.
- Roundtable—group of students discuss issues put before them.
- Think-alouds. Student is filmed as she works through a problem taken from her class, all the while talking about why she is making the choices she is making. With this strategy, the student’s meta-cognitive state is revealed.
- Collaborative problem solving. Similar to Think-alouds, but with more than one student engaged in the task.
- Students of course can be filmed in the class setting, working in groups, responding to the instructor, etc. With this strategy you may run into issues around getting good sound. One tip is to, whenever possible, get the camera in close to whomever is speaking.
- Of course, any time you ask students in a class setting to generate content that you can later analyze as part of your Inquiry, you are uncovering Student Voices. For example, having students do in-take self-assessments, or written self-reflections, or classroom assessments, etc.–all of these tools reveal Student Voices.
Types of interviews:
- Duo interviews, in which 2 students are on camera.
- Group interviews.
- “Man in the Street” –actually should be called “Student in the Street” interviews. Students are esp. good at conducting these. These kinds of “quick hitting” interviews can actually serve as good starting points for Inquiry. They of course can tend to be anecdotal in nature, and may not deliver hard data, but they do sometimes uncover areas of interest that Inquirers may not have considered.
The Faculty Inquiry Network’s (FIN) purpose is to support professional development which includes: conducting faculty inquiry; revisiting basic skills assumptions; interpreting and integrating data; accessing student voices; developing students as co-inquirers; making visible; using technology for teaching and learning; creating and supporting new initiatives, curriculum and program development; constructing educational tools using digital media; and hosting dialogue around student and faculty learning.