I (Yiola) have used the method of interviews for data gathering for over a decade. I love it;the entire process is fascinating. From designing research questions, to finding suitable participants, to setting up interview dates, to meeting with participants, to reading the transcript and to sharing the transcript with the participants.
There is something special about qualitative interviews. Perhaps what is special is the human connection, perhaps the interaction, perhaps the commitment demonstrated by the participants . I think perhaps all of the aforementioned make the interview process special. In my many years of interviewing participants, what inspires me the most is the passion the participants demonstrate as they explain with detail and careful description their thoughts and experiences about education. I can (and do) listen for hours. The participants I have worked with show appreciation for their involvement in the research and often express how much learning they receive from the experience. The latter is particularly true of participants in longitudinal studies.
The role of the researcher: what an honour and privilege to spend time with willing participants; to be privy to their time and thoughts. A special relationship develops between research and participant that is built on trust, respect and commitment. This relationship takes time to foster and requires thoughtfulness. The interview data is often the foundation of the research. This data is built upon a deep understand of research literature, thoughtful research questions, carefully crafted interview questions, and committed research participants. Relationship building is key when using interviews in the research process.
We (Clive and Clare) are in NYC interviewing literacy/English teacher educators who are part of our large-scale study which includes participants from four countries: Canada, US, UK, and Australia. To date, we have conducted two interviews and are now starting the third round of interviews. The first interview focused on their backgrounds and interests; the second on their pedagogy; and the third on their use of digital technology and future plans. (For the interview questions click on the tab About Our Research then on the drop down menu, click on the tab for Instruments.) To say this research has been fascinating is an understatement! I feel I have gotten to know 28 outstanding teacher educators both personally and professionally. I have learned so much through this research:
- their approach to literacy teacher education is thoughtful and complex (e.g., consistently they believe you need to start with the student teacher’s own views of literacy and to help them “unlearn” in order to develop a more expansive view of literacy);
- most did not plan to do a PhD or become a teacher educator (e.g., their journey to becoming a professor/lecturer were serendipitous with a key figure/mentor influencing them);
- they have very heavy workloads in part because they are so committed to their student teachers (e.g., they develop tutoring programs in schools in order to provide student teachers with authentic experiences)
- the political context is impacting on them in untold ways (e.g., the pressure from external credentialing agencies to conform to a narrow view of literacy – phonics – is complicating their work. They cannot always teach what they feel student teachers need to know).
- they must hold multiple identities – as teacher educators, as teachers, and as researchers
I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to interview these 28 remarkable teacher educators. We as an education community can learn much from them. We have published two papers from the study so far. Click on the Link Publications then click on the Link Clare’s Publications for copies of our papers.
You might also be interested in our edited book on literacy teacher educators. https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/other-books/literacy-teacher-educators/