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07. The Interviews

Teams. The co-leaders will create interview teams of two to four members each. The composition of the interview teams is not the same as that of the indicator teams. Interview teams are assigned by role:elementary teachers and administrators will be assigned to interview in elementary schools. To the extent possible, experienced team members--those who have been on prior visit teams--will be paired up with team members who are on their first visit.

Scripts. During a working lunch on days one and two and first thing in the morning on day two, the  team will meet to review the information gathered in the interviews. Questions still unanswered are discussed.

Roles. Some interview teams may decide to assign roles: one team member to take the lead in asking questions, one to monitor the time, and one to take notes. Other teams may decide to be more informal in their approach, with each team member asking questions and taking notes. Some find it easiest to take along a pad of Post-its to the interview, taking their notes in the form of nuggets that can be added to the template directly after returning from the interview.

Rules. Remember the rules for interviews covered during the visit team training:

  • Listen. The interview is the district faculty's opportunity to share their "oral evidence"-- that part of their story for which there are no written documents. It is critical that you listen attentively to what the interviewees are telling you. If they are describing a problem they have encountered, do not jump in with your solution! Solutions will come in the form of "recommendations for growth" formulated by consensus with the team as a whole.

  • Paraphrase. You will have only one opportunity to talk with the interviewees. To make sure you are perfectly clear about what they are telling you, paraphrase what you have heard.

  • Ask clarifying questions. The interview is also your chance to get answers to the questions that have arisen during the team's review of the documentary evidence. Particularly critical is oral evidence of implementation: how widespread is the implementation of the plans and programs you have been reading about? Equally important is oral evidence of results: what are these teachers observing in their students' performance, and to what do they attribute change in that performance? You may want to review the sample interview questions in your Visit Team binder.

  • Accept without judgment. Although your job as a team member is to evaluate the district's work, the interview is not the time to share your opinions with those you are interviewing. The attention is on the district's issues.

  • Empathize. Ensure that your words, your expression, and your body language portray your role as a "critical friend."

Time. Interviews are generally scheduled to last a school period--i.e., between thirty and forty minutes. Pace yourselves so that you can get through both agendas--your own and that of the interviewees. If you absolutely need more time with one or another group, your co-leaders will schedule it for you.

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