Guidelines for Interviewers


Before the Interview

  • Share the project overview with your interviewee:
  • Set up an appointment with your interviewee and establish the method(s) by which and recording device(s) with which the interview will take place (in person, via skype, cell phone / video recorder, voice recording, internet recording software, etc.), along with the time and place.
  • Prepare open-ended questions that will make the interviewee feel at ease and be able to express themselves freely. Also prepare yourself for the unexpected. Prepare yourself to listen closely so that you can ask follow-up questions appropriate to the interviewee’s knowledge and experience.
  • If possible, do some research on your interview subject so that you will be well-equipped to ask questions that will allow them to reveal what is most interesting and unusual about their educational experiences and perspectives.
  • Test the device you’ll be using to record the interview to make sure it is working correctly.
  • A few sample open-ended interview prompts:
    • Tell me about your most memorable educational experience.
    • Tell me about a time when you were changed or transformed as a result of education.
    • What do you think the goal of education should be?
    • What, if anything, do you think needs to change in our educational system and why?
    • Describe the people and/or ideas that have been most important to your education.
    • What do you feel is unique about your view of education or your experiences with education?
    • How do you envision schools of the future?
    • If you could create an “ideal” school, what would the school be like?

During the Interview

  • Make an audio recording of the interview that can be transferred digitally.  If possible, it is ideal that you also record video of the interview.  (Actors will rely on this oral and visual information in their depictions of interviewees.) Give the interviewee the feeling that s/he has your full and undivided attention.
  • If you are only making an audio recording of the interview, take a picture of the subject or ask them to provide you with a picture.  Actors will need this visual information for performance and costuming purposes.
  • Rather than asking questions that can be answered “yes” or “no,” ask open-ended questions—questions that won’t encourage an either-or kind of response, but will allow the interviewee to express herself or himself more freely.
  • Your questions will be edited out of the performance script, so the less you talk the better.  Usually just a few good open-ended questions is all you’ll need to ask.
  • Listen for what has not been said before.  Encourage the interviewee to express those things they have difficulty expressing.  Try to discover what is unique about the interviewee’s experiences and perspectives.
  • Listen for the stories behind or underneath what your interviewees say. Try to bring these stories out, by asking your interviewees to talk about the experiences that have led them to the beliefs and opinions that they hold.
  • Listen!  Try to enter into the viewpoints (inter-view) of your interviewee.  Ask questions that will help you and others better understand his/her points of view and what has led him/her to those perspectives.
  • Don’t challenge or judge the responses of your interviewees.  Your goal is to understand the perspective of your interviewee, not to challenge or change or correct the way s/he sees things.
  • And finally, “Don’t be so tied to your prepared questions that you hold onto them even if the interview takes a new and interesting direction” (source: Composing a Civic Life).

After the Interview

  • Thank the interviewee.
  • Share a copy of the recorded interview and the signed release form with Mr. Hefko.  Also include 1) a brief description of the interviewee:  occupation, year in school (if a high school student), etc. 2) If the recording is only audio and not video, include a picture of the interview subject (see bullet #2 under “During the Interview”). 3) Your contact information (phone and e-mail).

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