Using interviews to investigate education: a summary

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  • Using interviews to investigate education
    • Practical issues
      • Young people's linguistic and intellectual skills are less developed than adults'
      • Janet Powney and Mike Watts: children tend to be more literal minded and often pay attention to unexpected details in questions
        • Young people do however tend to have better verbal than literacy skills
    • The interviewer as 'teacher in disguise'
      • If interviewees have less power than the interviewer, they may see it as in their best interests to alter their answers. They also may be less self-confident and so less articulate. This reduces the validity of the data
    • Improving the validity of interview with pupils (Sheila Greene and Diane Hogan)
      • Avoid repeating questions
      • Recognise that children are more suggestible
      • Tolerate long pauses
      • Don't interrupt children's answers
      • Use open-ended questions
    • Group interviews with pupils
      • The free-flowing nature makes it impossible to standardise the questions
      • Pupils and young people are often strongly influenced by peer pressure
      • Greene and Hogan: create a safe peer environment and reproduce the small group settings pupils are familiar with in classroom work
      • Reveal the interactions between pupils
    • Access and response rate
      • Powney and Watts: the lower down the hierarchy the interviewee is, the more approvals that have to be obtained
      • Schools may be reluctant to let sociologists conduct research during lesson time because of the disruption it causes
        • Or because of the topic of research
    • Reliability and validity
      • Structured interviews produce reliable data because they are standardised
        • However may not produce valid data because young people are unlikely to respond favourably to such a formal style


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