17 Notes from Interviews with Professors and Instructors

These interviews were conducted by Emma of professors and instructors, as well as a person from the Center for Teaching and Learning. Emma obtained informed consent from the participants for the following interviews. 


Professor of Social Sciences

Interview Conducted by Emma in 2019

Note: This professor gives students an assignment to conduct interviews as a part of the coursework

Why do you assign Student conducted interviews?

  • Master narratives and the power dynamics that shape them
  • The essential role of other stories from those with “lesser” power
  • To help students exercise agency/power
  • The role of language (how we say it as important as what we say)
    • Also the power of everyday interactions to disrupt master narratives
    • Consider the power of “illegal” to describe undoc immigrants: language impacts thoughts and actions

Student Response:

  • Positive
    • Intimate connection
    • Personal experience can teach!
      • Improves confidence in ones own knowledge/ exp or in their abilities to make connections and create/seek new knowledge
  • Negative
    • Trauma/violence can come up – space of vulnerability- delicate situations
    • Some people cannot share their stories
    • Learning something you are not prepared to and cannot unlearn- particularly with family interviews

Any Problems that have arisen?

  • Provide options other than interview


Center for Teaching and Learning (July 2019)

  1. Have you seen any paper(s) like ours before? Are we bringing something new to the scholarship?
    1. Has not seen a project like ours and definitely sees it as a very original idea.
    2. People doing related work who I have now been connected with via email.
      1. Mike Honey – works with oral histories and anti-racist pedagogy, Prof. of civil and labor rights history at UW Tacoma — May not be able to meet due to a busy schedule and some recent hardships.
      2. Tikka Sears – Director of Theater for Change which works to advance community dialogue through personal narrative sharing and preformace (tackles issues like classroom heirarchies, bias, discrimination, etc.)
      3. Elba Moise – Works in the Center for Teaching and Learning with a focus on multicultural education. — Works with Tikka on Theater for Change
    3. Do you know of any studies/ research that connects this type of personal engagement with student work to better success or engagement?
      1. No specifics but…
      2. “ It is a truism in writing that students do better when connected with their work. You have probably seen this before that in writing many instructors begin with a personal writing piece of some sort, you write about yourself, your experience, something you’re an expert in and then you go from there. And it’s not just writing, it’s an evidence based teaching strategy. I don’t know of a specific study or theory, but yes, you’re right, students do better.”
  2. Do you have any recommended readings related to our topic? What about examples of similar work we could draw formatting inspiration from?
    1. No recommendations for readings BUT highly recommended going to the ode writing and research center to further explore.
    2. Ode writing and research currently between directors until mid August, check in then.
    3. Connected me with Olivia Kenney to survey writing center tutors to see if this is a question that comes up often and how the writing center responds.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for journals that our project would fit in for publishing?
    1. Thinks we probably want to look for journals in the realm of scholarship of teaching as opposed to disciplinary education OR
      1. Human rights ed
      2. Pol S ed
      3. LA studies ed
      4. Assessment scholars – education or writing
    2. Find journals w general connections and then read their table of contents and see how your work fits w the other articles
    3. Recommended that we come back to talk to her when we’re further along. Hone in on our:
      1. Goals
      2. audience
  4. Do you have any recommended readings for creating a curriculum/ adaptable framework around this project?
    1. Course design not curriculum – outline + implementation
    2. Katie Malcom – met with Katie briefly after my meeting with Beth. She recommended and send me the PDF version of a book (Aligning for Learning – Wulff et. al) about course design that might fit our project and the broad applicability we’re looking for.


Professor of Social Sciences (June 2019)

Why did you choose to integrate student produced knowledge into your class? 

  • Teaching with the goal of changing the way that people think and changing the way people feel, the latter being a more difficult challenge
    • Especially important in the study of immigration because we tend to speak about the human beings who migrate in disconnected ways which discount their humanity
    • But more generally in social sciences researchers/students are often disconnected from their subjects
      • This can also mean you miss some things in research

What has the student response been like?

  • Used to have a rule about not letting students interview family because of a desire to take students beyond their existing ideas/networks
    • For the student and the subject – make new connections/ expand thought
    • Changed policy because it allowed students to connect to their family stories
      • Overwhelmingly positive responses
        • Addressing family secrets – many students knew little about migration stories of their family, sometimes tied to shame or negative experiences in home country
        • Connecting people with where their families are from
        • Hearing stories they may have never otherwise heard → starting a dialogue which can last
          • Trinh Mai – connecting through photographs
            • Gaining the ability to understand each other through stories – especially with older generations

Have you run into any problems with its use?

  • None because interviews were never required, always given the option
    • Alternatives:
      • Service learning + a short response essay – still getting people to connect with others – changing feelings and thoughts
      • Writing fiction story – making up characters so that you’re still obligated to empathize and understand people as complex beings.
  • Initially it was difficult for people to find someone to interview but times have changed, social media makes connections easier +
  • Credibility not an issue  – always requires further support
    • A piece of evidence not the entirety of the project

Do you have any recommendations for our project in terms of curriculum development?

  • Speak with Beth Kalikoff
  • Trinh Mai – integrating Art
    • If you want people to connect with their subjects give them something to engage with. – conveying individual experience and sometimes collective experience

Recommended Reading:

 Friedman, Kathie, and Karen Rosenberg. “Performing Identities in the Classroom: Teaching Jewish Women’s Studies.” Teaching Sociology 35, no. 4 (2007): 315-33.

  • Written by Prof. Friedman with a grad student who was taking this class on Jewish women’s studies with mostly undergrads.
  • Classroom dynamic was so weird and problematic → grad student wanted to drop course → turn it into a research project, take extensive notes on what it is that makes the dynamic weird
  • Main conclusions:
    • In classes analyzing identities and intersectionality the relationship between theory and experience must constantly be interrogated by students and instructors
    • “ Women’s studies students frequently mention what they remember most from a course in terms of importance in their lives is not any particular reading, but the analytical tools they learn to apply to their own lives”
    • focus on the importance of:
      • Sharing authority in the classroom
      • Power and importance of personal experience in the classroom
      • BUT also must be challenged and problematized

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