Image credit http://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/18/job-interviews-are-taking-longer-rules-are-the-reason.html
My mini-thesis qualitative study is aimed to explore the perceptions of secondary school teachers of the effectiveness of online learning they are involved in. In order to receive a broader range of teachers’ experiences and better understand the challenges they face in online learning I decided to use a one-on-one interview as a research instrument.
To start with, I designed a semi-structured interview with ten open-ended questions. When constructing interview questions there were two things I kept in mind: first, my questions should help me answer the research question and, secondly, there should be a logical progression in the sequence of questions. To make sure the wording and order of the questions were not confusing I probed the interview questions on one of my NU group mates. Based on piloting, clarifications were made to some questions by changing the words. Besides, I had to add and amend the order of the first questions to avoid a fast jumping to the main issues.
The next stage, selecting participants for the interviews, to some extent turned out not a very easy task. To be honest, my school colleagues were not so enthusiastic about the idea of sharing ideas with me at first. The reason for their being hesitant lies in my status of an administrator. Probably, there was a fear of being prosecuted by school administration later for having voiced some awkward issues. I guess my master peers might face the same challenge in future when conducting data collection for their thesis studies at their schools and there will arise the issue of building trust between the interviewer and participants. In my case, I had ‘to change my hat’ and explain that I was doing a research as a master student, and the interviews would be absolutely anonymous and confidential. Moreover, the participants were assured that the collected data would be deleted after the study was completed and no measures would be applied to them as participants for unpleasant answers. Eventually, two teachers agreed to take part in the study. For confidentiality I spoke with each of them separately. The participants were informed that the interview would last forty minutes maximum and they would have to answer ten open-ended questions and some additional questions for clarification if needed. Besides, it was agreed that the answers would be recorded on my i-phone.
According to the advice of my thesis supervisor, I had made appointments with each of my interviewees on two different days. That strategy was convenient as from my last year experience of interviewing NU bachelor students I know that recording may be a tiring procedure, sometimes you have to keep notes. Besides, it is better to sit to transcribe the interview data immediately on the same day when you can recollect well the atmosphere, the gestures of the speaker during the conversation. On the agreed time after lessons we met with participants in a quiet room of the school for the interviews.
I should admit that I could evaluate the real quality of the questions only when conducting the interviews. I could see that the language of the questions translated into Russian should have been more simplified, i.e. closer to spoken Russian, so that the respondents would feel more relaxed to communicate their perceptions. That was the issue I had not considered when piloting the questions. It was not easy for me to keep a moderate mood during the conversation, not to react to the emotional expressions of the speakers. Quite a new experience was the note taking process. Frankly speaking, during the first interview, I gave up writing the notes as I began to get distracted from keeping the conversation. I should admit that the eye contact, nodding to the participant’s words turned out to be very important. The second interview went calmer, I could control the pace of the conversation, even managed to put down very brief notes.
As a whole, I appreciate the experience received while interviewing my colleagues. Undoubtedly, it will build to my skills and positively affect my further interviews within my main thesis study, which I am going to conduct with teachers from other schools.