Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 4 No Set Script

Two of the readings for this week were reviews on how to successfully conduct a student interview. Ginsberg’s chapter Not a Cookbook focused on the different strategies and approaches when conducting clinical interviews to understand children’s understandings and thought processes of concepts. Russ and Sherin also look at strategies for interviewing students, but address it specifically to the realm of science education. Greeno’s and Hall’s paper discusses the importance of the use of representation in science classrooms.

Greeno’s article follows along the ideas of the authors we have read over the past few weeks. However, the paper struck me because of the importance Greeno places on the practice of representation and its relevance to the scientific community and science in everyday life. Greeno even gave examples of how the process works in corporate organizations as well as in the classroom. Practicing representation and discussion of the models are important in order for students to understand and participate in scientific practice and communities. Lehrer, Sampson, and Jackson also hit on the importance of students practicing science, as a scientist would, in order to fully understand concepts and how to communicate and discuss their learnings to, and with, others. Science literacy, according to Greeno, should be taught as a representation of a real scientific community. To him, representations have real life uses, and should be used as such.

As I read through Ginsberg’s chapter and Russ’s article, I felt that I could definitely see myself often using interviewing to understand student thinking in my own future classroom. Ginsberg and Russ say that interviews, done correctly, give great insight to a student’s understanding of a concept. In the video we watched in our last class, I felt that the teacher could have used the idea of the interview a little more as she questioned her students. While the students were able to give some correct answers or examples to her questions, she didn’t ‘probe’ or push for how they got that answer, which would have shown actual understanding (or lack thereof) of potential and kinetic energy.

Of course, I can see why the teacher did not push as much for the students’ understanding of the material. It is difficult and time-consuming to do that kind of interview in the classroom, when material has to be covered. As a teacher, I would probably have taken a few of those students aside later and asked them to explain further. This would allow me to know what concepts I might have to review and explore more in depth with the students. Interviewing the students would also let me know how I should improve my lesson plan for that specific concept. The only challenge about interviewing is getting an accurate reading of whether the students understand the material. Maybe I don’t ask the correct questions, or the student answers how he or she thinks I want them to. There are so many details to worry about.


  1. Caitlin, I can see how it can be overwhelming but I think having these interviews, even the most generic of ones, can be beneficial. There is no “right” way to do an interview as Ginsburg stated. The goal of the interviews is to ultimately gage student thinking and understanding by creating strong, trusting, relationships with them so that when they need any help, they know and feel comfortable coming to you with questions. The Sampson article that we talked about last week touches upon creating this safe space, extending it to the everyday classroom as a whole, where students are not afraid to come up with faulty explanations to concepts. Thus, maybe through making explicit this “safe” space within the whole classroom, students may then feel more comfortable speaking one-on-one with the teachers, making these interviews more productive.
    As for the time constraint that you talked about, I also believe that it takes a long time to create a safe, secure environment. The researchers stated that these interviews would be relatively short, so how would this environment be established in such a short time. Furthermore, since you want to create this strong relationship, continuity is important. Thus, would you interview the same student(s) or rotate, with the risk of disrupting this intimate relationship? So many questions!!!

  2. In terms of time, there's also the factor of the amount of available time in the school day for an interview. The interviews are short, but need to be performed in a quiet space away from other students. If students' study halls don't align with your planning period, when do you interview? After school is a possibility, but students need to catch the bus. And even if you can fit it into planning time, that's a burden on you as a teacher.
    I don't know if interviews require the extremity of time for a safe space that you described, Elizabeth. It seems to me that if you have established your classroom as a safe space, and thoroughly establish that the interview is not for a grade, trust within the interview will develop. This is also dependent upon how you respond to the student during the interview. Validating their thoughts and genuinely listening without taking notes (recording the interview for later analysis) should help students feel safe in the interview.

  3. I agree that the teacher we watched probably would have benefitted from using more interview-style questions, but I think the key issue was that she over-estimated her student's understanding. At that point, simply asking for clarification or a more developed answer could have helped her better gauge, if the student actually did understand the topic it would still be good practice for him to verbalize and it might help other students who are still grappling with the topic so I don't think you can lose with this type of probing questioning. As for logistical concerns, I think interview style questions during classroom discussion can reach a similar goal. If you still feel that you want to delve deeper with particular students, maybe you could pull them into you office one at a time for a short chat during a group activity. That way you could avoid the time constraints to which Hannah alludes.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.