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Three-Step Interview (ALC)

Using Three-Step Interview activity to facilitate discussion in Active Learning Classrooms
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low


Three-Step Interview has student pairs take turns interviewing each other, then asks them to report what they learned to another pair. Step 1: Student A interviews Student B; Step 2: Student B interviews Student A; Step 3: Student A and B each summarize their partner’s responses for other groups.


Use it when you want...

  • To allow students to network and improve communication skills,
  • To have students listen carefully, concentrate on the interviewee’s responses, and encourage elaboration while refraining from imposing their thoughts, or
  • To have students practice expressing their ideas succinctly as they summarize the results of their interview.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Three-Step Interview learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.


  • Develop a list of interview questions that involve opinions or experiences related to course content.
  • Identify the types of questions that align with the course goals and probe for values, attitudes, prior experience, and/or comprehension of course content.


  • At each table, students divide into groups of four, then into two pairs (A-B and C-D).
  • The instructor poses the question to the class and gives students time to think about the question and devise individual responses.
  • Student A interviews Student B; Student C interviews Student D for a predetermined time. The interviewer asks questions, listens, and probes for further information but does not evaluate or respond.
  • Student B interviews Student A; Student D interviews Student C for the same amount of time.
  • Students A and B introduce each other with synthesized summaries of their partner’s interview responses to Student C and Student D. Students C and D do the same.
  • Upon completion of the activity, call on one or two tables to present a summary of their discussion. Ask the rest of the class if they have anything they would like to share that was not represented by the reporting groups.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

An instructor in Patient Care in Radiation Oncology wanted to prepare students for their clinical practicum. She used the Three-Step Interview to help students anticipate and solve problems they might encounter in the clinics. She hoped this preparation would increase students' confidence, reduce their anxiety, and help them successfully transition to the professional world. She created a series of "What would you do if...?" questions from her medical experiences that addressed the problematic situations students were likely to encounter. After the partners interviewed each other and summarized their responses, she gave them time to choose the question that concerned them most.  She used their responses as a basis for the whole-class discussion on handling the most anxiety-provoking scenarios (Modified from Barkley 177-178).

Example 2

A professor in Survey Marketing wanted students to familiarize themselves with ways of reaching various audiences. She chose the Three-Step Interview to have students share their ideas. At tables, students organized into pairs and interviewed each other using a worksheet of questions she had prepared. At the end of the activity, they turned to another person at the table and summarized the answers they had just reviewed.  Finally, the table comes back together and reviews all answers to the questions. This activity, she felt, helped students get to know each other (Modified from Barkley 178).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 175-179.

Keywordsinterview, report, listen, discuss, summarizeDoc ID118465
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 14:41:17Updated2024-04-16 15:48:51
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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