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First Week of Class Interview Activity

A sample interview activity during a first-course meeting has increased students' comfort in participating in class and approaching the instructor (Foster & Hermann, 2011).


This activity allows students and the instructor to take turns interviewing one another to help create an active, comfortable classroom. Foster and Hermann found that after participating in this activity, students showed significant increases in comfort in approaching the instructor and participating in class.

Citation: Foster, David A., and Anthony D. Hermann. "Linking the first week of class to end-of-term satisfaction: Using a reciprocal interview activity to create an active and comfortable classroom." College Teaching 59, no. 3 (2011): 111-116. DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2011.572098)


  1. Provide a handout or digital document with the information in the next section.
  2. Explain that the activity will consist of two rounds of small group discussion followed by a whole group interview.
  3. Part 1 – Instructor-led interview discussion
    1. Have students form small groups of 5 or 6 and spend about 15 minutes discussing several course-related issues in Part 1. Have each group select a representative to be interviewed by the instructor and to represent the group’s thoughts.
    2. Interview the representatives in the presence of the entire class. You may also allow other class members to respond if additional input is needed.
    3. Demonstrate active listening by taking notes (on a whiteboard or notebook) and asking clarifying questions. Strike a balance between responding immediately to student concerns during the interview and simply listening and taking notes.
  4. Part 2 – Student-led interview discussion
    1. Have each group select a new representative to interview the instructor on the group’s behalf. Inform students they are free to ask any question as long as it relates to the course in some way.
    2. Give each group 5–10 minutes to agree on several questions they would like to ask the instructor using the information in Part 2 of the handout and the previous instructor interview.
    3. Have the group representatives take turns asking the instructor questions.
    4. Make an effort to answer the questions thoughtfully and sincerely and promise to return to issues or questions you either do not have an answer to or are unprepared to discuss.
    5. Use student questions to raise important course issues that may not have been addressed up to this point, like the challenging aspects of the course or the ways students can get assistance.


Part 1 - Instructor-led interview discussion topics

(10- to 15-minute discussion; 15- to 20-minute interview)

  • What are your goals for this course? To learn new skills? To become better educated? To learn the subject matter? To fulfill a requirement? To get a good grade? To apply your learning to other aspects of your life? Something else?
  • How can the instructor best help you achieve your goals? Lectures, exams, discussions, practice, office hours (think back to excellent professors/courses you've experienced)?
  • What, if anything, have you heard about this textbook and/or course from others?
  • What reservations, if any, do you have about this course?
  • What is the best thing that could happen in this course? What is the worst thing?
  • What resources do you bring to this course (e.g., prior experience, prior courses)?
  • What norms of behavior or ground rules should we set to ensure the course succeeds (e.g., mutual respect, question asking, punctuality, etc.?)

Part 2 - Student-led interview discussion topics

(5- to 10-minute discussion; 15-minute interview)

  • What are the instructor's objectives for this course—what do they hope to accomplish?
  • What is the instructor's theory of learning (i.e., how do people learn)?
  • What is the instructor's approach to evaluating student's learning in the course?
  • What does the instructor expect of you?
  • What is the instructor's role in the course?
  • What else is important to you (e.g., aspects of the syllabus, assignments, text, exams, etc.)?

Keywordsstudent engagement, communication, student introductions, instructor introductionsDoc ID133672
OwnerMeredith M.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2023-12-19 17:29:09Updated2024-04-16 12:40:57
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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