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Evaluation for Excellence Toolkit: Student-led Interviews


Students collecting and analysing data can provide an authentic way in which to gain insights about your teaching, curricula, and courses. Students may be more open with their peers than a member of staff and this approach gives students the opportunity not just to give their opinions but to shape the direction of the evaluation and the process. While this card looks at student-led interviews, student-led focus groups are also an option to consider, with a similar process. 

Recipe Card Detail

Engaging students in the interview process is a really good way to get honest learner perspectives.

Student-led interviews are good for:
– Getting learner perspectives throughout the evaluation process
– Getting genuine peer engagement from learners
– Generating deep qualitative data

PREPARATION: Recruit and train student team; design interview questions.
TIMING: 15-30 minutes per interview plus analysis time.
EQUIPMENT: Digital recorders; budget to pay student team.
Depending on the scale of your study, you will need a student team of between two and six people to carry out your interviews. Students can be recruited through contacts in your department or through the University student employment service. They will need to be paid so you will need a budget for this.
Once you have identified the key areas you want to investigate, the question scripts should be designed in conjunction with the student team. A good way to do this is to combine a training workshop on interview skills with a question design workshop where the students explore the key areas and generate the types of questions they would ask peers.
The student team can be a great resource as they can recruit peers in the department (although you have to be careful about friend bias). Getting colleagues to recruit the students is another good approach. Incentives, such as vouchers or food, are also helpful. The number of interviews required will depend on what you want to know, but 10-20 is a good ballpark figure.
Your student team will carry out the interviews but you should be on hand in case they need support. Blocking out a time in which several interviews happen at once is an efficient use of your time. Arrange private rooms for interviews, and for audio recording (consider ethics and transcription). Thirty minutes is a good length, but this will depend on your questions.
This step can be done by yourself or with the student team. Review your transcripts and look for evidence that answers your key themes. You can use coding of statements to draw similar ideas together and look at how common themes occur in the data set. Identify insightful quotes that exemplify dominant themes.
Ensure that you share your conclusions with the student team and give them the opportunity to comment and add their own perspectives to the conclusions, which will increase their validity.

When reporting your findings from student-led interviews, make sure that you detail the characteristics of the students recruited, and the degree to which the sample, and the opinions generated, are representative of the population. Direct quotes are a good way of giving colour but you should provide evidence of the representativeness of the ideasexpressed.
Download a full colour version of the recipe cards.Recipe Card (PDF)

Links to Online Resources

  1. Conducting an Interview, Last Accessed January 22

Links to Papers/Books

  1. McGrath, Cormac, Per J. Palmgren, and Matilda Liljedahl. “Twelve tips for conducting qualitative research interviews.” Medical teacher 41.9 (2019): 1002-1006.
  2. The science and art of interviewing, Gerson, Kathleen, author. Damaske, Sarah, author, 2020.