Since I am trying to highlight examples of good practice and find out what is possible (as well as what the obstacles/challenges are), is it ok for my interview questions to lead towards uncovering examples of good practice?! Or are ‘leading’ and ‘uncovering’ two quite different things?! My participants will know that I’m trying to test for students as partners in knowledge construction, so of course I need to probe. But if I begin by looking at small details in order to (potentially) help them see the possibilities that I think I see, is that unethical leading? Beginning with the big question is likely to overwhelm people, surely, as well as skew their responses towards doubt? Or perhaps using less huge words/concepts in the first, nonetheless big, question would get around this? Here are the thoughts so far:
Students as partners in knowledge construction – interview questions
(In what ways) are students your partners in knowledge construction?
How do your students contribute to knowledge construction in your discipline?
What is your special area of (research) interest in your discipline?
How is knowledge constructed in this area?
How do you construct knowledge in this area? In what ways do you contribute to knowledge construction in your discipline?
Do you think that your own processes of knowledge construction in this discipline are typical of others’ processes in the same field?
(How) do your students play a part in this? What part(s)? How? Why? What are the limits to the part they play? Why?
[as a researcher, how do I get around (i.e. NOT persuade, but avoid the obstacle of people resting on the (I think) lazy belief that students have to be brought up to a certain level in order to contribute at all? PPerhaps by going in at another angle, e.g. starting with the positives, valuing the small things that students do…]]
Do your first year UG students ever pleasantly surprise you (in their thinking/reading/sense-making/questions)?
For example, do they ask interesting questions in class? When they ask about the subject matter, what kinds of questions do they ask? Do they ask questions that surprise you? Why do they surprise you? Can you give me some examples of how they express their questions? How do you respond? Do you ever surprise yourself with your answers? In what way? Can you give me an example? Do they make connections between topics or elements under study that you yourself have not made? they ask? How often? Can you illustrate this with an example?
Do they do this in their writing? How often? Who? (How) do you promote this in your teaching and support for learning?
Another example: Do they include interesting sources in their reference lists that are new to you? How often? Who?
[Maybe each of these examples are explored and then after that I follow up with questions like ‘who? Can you characterise the students who do each of these things? Are there any themes/trends, e.g. the ‘brighter’ ones, the more motivated ones, the more privileged ones…? Can you make any generalisations? I’d be hoping they’d find that all students did one or other of the above at some time or other]
So they do/don’t pleasantly surprise you in their thinking about the subject matter. Do they challenge your thinking, for example, by contesting what you say or what you have written?
What about your other UG students, the second and third years, do they offer more surprises and challenges in relation to the above? Why? In what way(s)? Please can you give me an example or two?
What would you define as a contribution to knowledge construction?
Would you consider any of the above examples of your students’ thinking as a contribution to knowledge construction?
So do you think that your students can be your partners in knowledge construction? [Tom suggests I start with this and then go the ‘if yes…’/’if no…’ route] How? Why? Are there other ways in which they can be partners in knowledge construction that we haven’t mentioned above? Why/why not? What do you see as the challenges, obstacles and limits to this? Do you think there are missed opportunities in your practice [separate question] and/or in the University’s practice? What are they and what do you think could be done about them?