Reflections on [True] Stories and COM 230: Listening

This semester my COM 230: Listening class had the opportunity to participate in [True] Stories, a project focused on the importance of teaching oral history in the College classroom. We started the semester with readings (e.g., Wolvin, 2010; Rubin & Rubin, 2012) and discussions about the value of qualitative interviewing for learning, understanding, and sharing experiences. Students were asked to interview a professional from the community to learn more about the importance of listening in the field they are interested in joining after graduation.

In their first assignment, students submitted a brief reflection describing the person they planned to interview, draft of interview questions, and your rationale for asking those questions. Students learned about the ethics of qualitative research. I explained the role of the Institutional Review Board when conducting research and described the process that resulted in approval of the project from the IRB at Rollins College. We had each interviewee complete an informed consent form describing the purpose of the project before the interview.

After the students completed individual interviews with professionals in our community, students audio record responses to a set of prescribed questions and prepared a typed transcript of the most important segments of the interview. Then, in small groups, the students coded/analyzed the interviews for themes.

One of the biggest “aha” moments came after Leslie Poole, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, gave a talk on her experiences with oral history as a journalist. Students were able to compare their experiences doing oral history with a professional’s experiences which added to their learning.

Students also reflected on the role of listening in oral history and wrote a paper that included information drawn from what they had learned in class (through readings, lectures, and discussions) and their individual research to discuss how the scholarly research relates to or contradicts what the students learned from professionals through the interviews.

This was a full semester project. However, in the future, I plan to have the students complete the assignment in a shorter period of time. I believe that starting the project at the mid-point of the semester and including guest lectures earlier in the semester will help students better integrate the material learned in class with their project.

[TRUE] Stories – Reflecting on the interview process

I conduct qualitative interviews in my research to better understand the experiences of people and families coping with illness. Although we used interviewing for a very different project in COM 230: Listening, I imagine there is a lot of overlap in the types of challenges we faced as researchers. One of the first challenges that I identified as a student was with getting people to respond to my request for an interview. I was sometimes met with suspicion about what I was going to do with the project which was surprising to me because I knew I had good intentions and had designed a project that met the ethical guidelines of research. I reassured each participant that the interview would be confidential and that any information I learned from the interview wouldn’t be linked to their identity. I also described the process I went through to get permission from the Institutional Review Board at my university, just like we did here, before proceeding with my project.

What are some of the challenges you faced? Any surprises? What about successes? Remember to write a brief (approximately 500 words) reflection on the interview experience. Reflect on challenges and/or barriers during the interview process as well as successes and/or surprises.