The Power of a “Brief Interview”
During the 2007-2008 program year, I was part of a cohort in the State Initiative: Effective Instruction for All Adult Education Students including those with Special Learning Needs. The guidelines for a “Brief Interview,” its purposes, as well as possible questions to ask in the interview were covered through this Initiative. I have found the “Brief Interview” very helpful in working with the students in my classes.
There are a few guidelines for the interview. The instructor should conduct the interview with each student, as soon as possible, after the student has enrolled in their Adult Education program. The interview is to be one-on-one between the instructor and the student and should be no more than ten minutes in length.
One purpose of the interview is for the instructor to connect with the student. Another purpose is to have the student realize that you are forming a partnership with him and that he will take an active part in the entire process of learning. The instructor and the student will be co-investigators in this process. Each student has gained some knowledge of how he learns best through his educational experiences. This interview is a beginning of the search for the best method by which the student learns.
During one session of the initiative, working in groups, we developed possible questions for an interview based on a particular area of investigation. Then the questions from each group were shared with all the participants, and each participant could use whichever questions he felt were most helpful. He could also edit the questions or add additional questions of his own. Then each participant took part in a mock interview with another participant, one playing the part of the instructor, and the other playing the part of the student. Then each pair exchanged roles and had another interview. After both interviews, the pair discussed the various questions asked, as well as the benefits from the interviews, and shared other questions they thought might be helpful.
Last spring I was able to interview one of my new students during the orientation process. Through the interview, I discovered that she wanted to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). The instructor of that training program at our local community college was a personal friend of mine, so I called him and asked to set up an informational meeting between him and my student. As a result of that meeting, she found out that she could take a noncredit First Responder course at the community college while she was still working on her GED through our program. She studied with us during the day and began attending the First Responder course at night. This past fall, she completed her GED while enrolled in the Emergency Medical Technician program. After she obtained
her GED, she was able to take her test for certification as an EMT. She passed her test and is now a Certified EMT. Her next step is to begin the Paramedic program. The interview helped me to discover her goals and assist her in finding a method to achieve them.
Following our most recent orientation, I was able to interview most of our new students. The questions from the interviews gave me insights into the students that I might not have discovered otherwise. The interviews enabled me to assist my students more effectively in their learning process. The interviews showed the students that our program was interested in each one as an individual and served as a motivational factor in their success in our program.
The “Brief Interview” was only one part of the Initiative, among many useful tools and strategies presented to enable us to help our students achieve their goals. I would encourage anyone who is able to participate in this training, to do so. I will continue to use the interview as a first step in helping my students to become co-investigators in discovering the path to successful learning.
About the Author
With a background in teaching math at the community college and secondary level, Vicki Angel joined the Bowie-Cass Adult Education Cooperative in Texarkana six years ago. She works with ABE and GED students and also assists students in preparing for the Texas Higher Education Assessment and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery tests. Vicki has completed the Master Teacher Institute and is a Special Learning Needs Resource Specialist. She is currently a participant in the Training of Trainers of Effective Instruction for all Adult Education Students including those with Special Learning Needs. She is also a participant in the Teacher Credential Program. She has a B.S. in Math from Sam Houston State University and an M.S. in Education from East Texas State University at Texarkana with a specialty in math.