Teach Methods Across the Curriculum: Interviews and the Classroom

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The MethodSpace focus for August is on teaching research methods. We will follow on in September, with a focus on mentoring, supervising, and guiding researchers. You can find the whole series here, including information about the September 12 webinar,”Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.” Register now and find the time in your zone here.

You can help your students develop research skills, even when you are not teaching courses that focus on research methods. Create active, experiential projects that ask students to collect and analyze responses to written or verbal questions. Being able to ask thoughtful questions is a valuable life, career AND research skillset!

Students can question others in the class, people in their own families or communities, or they can conduct expert interviews with individuals who have experience or expertise related to the topic at hand. Students can plan and use surveys, questionnaires, or interviews.

Here is an example from my own teaching life.

I taught a Masters’ level online class about leadership skills. One of the course assignments asked students to interview a leader about how they handled various issues central to the course. Initial assignments for the project included a plan, including discussion about who had agreed to be interviewed and where the interview would take place, online or face-to-face. The interview questions were another deliverable. I was able to make sure that the questions were appropriate and relevant to the subjects covered in the course. They did not complete a full data analysis, instead they discussed and wrote about what they learned. They were able to compare and contrast the responses from interviews conducted by their peers. They were also able to compare and contrast what their interviewees said about leadership in the real world with the principles suggested in texts and readings. 

This kind of interview exercise could be completed by individual students or small teams. While my class was offered online, some students sat down with people in their own local communities and others interviewed people online.

Interviews to brought real-world knowledge into the classroom.

In addition to gaining insights into the course content not possible from readings alone, these students took one step forward in development of skills they could use to conduct scholarly or professional research. Students were engaged and motivated.

I created a detailed media piece about using interviews for this kind of classroom exercise. View Active E-Learning with E-Interviews and download a short hand out: Develop Skills through Class Projects. These materials are part of the ancillary materials for the book Qualitative Online Interviews.

In this example, the informal interviews on topics that were not sensitive or confidential did not merit approval by the Institutional Review Board. They used a simple agreement form that I provided. This is an issue you will want to check with your own institution before moving forward with this type of learning activity.

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