Three-Step Interview

Active learning

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UsingThree-Step Interview activity to facilitate discussion in a classroom.
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 a 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.
  • Determine how groups will be formed.


  • Students divide into groups of four, then into two pairs (A-B and C-D).
  • The instructor poses the question to the class. Gives students time to think about the question and devise individual responses.
  • Students are asked to join their groups. 
  • 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.
  • Student A and B introduce each other with synthesized summaries of their partner’s interview responses to Student C and Student D. Student C and D do the same.
  • Students share responses in a larger class discussion.
  • Draw conclusions, synthesize results, or guide another activity in response.


  • 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 that this preparation would increase students' confidence, reduce their anxiety, and help them transition to the professional world more successfully. She created a series of "What would you do if...?" questions drawn from her medical experiences that addressed the kinds of difficult 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 had concerned them most.  She used their responses as a basis for the whole-class discussion on how best to handle the most anxiety-provoking scenarios (Barkley 177-178).

Example 2

A professor in Survey Marketing wanted to create a sense of community in her online course and start to familiarize students with the immersive environment technology that she planned to use throughout the semester. She chose the Three-Step Interview to accomplish these goals. She organized the class into student pairs, and at the synchronous session, she asked students to arrange a time to meet independently with their partners during the next week to interview each other using a worksheet of questions she had prepared. She informed students that they would be presenting a synthesized introduction of their partner at the next synchronous class session. This activity, she felt, helped students get to know each other and become comfortable with the online technologies they would be using (Barkley 178).


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

Keywordsthree step interview, discussion, active learningDoc ID104155
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 10:44 CSTUpdated2023-07-19 08:24 CST
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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