Getting Started: Initial Interviews with Students

Natina Gilbert ’18, a Course Writing Associate, provides some valuable insight for getting to know your students.

If you are a course writing associate having a meeting early on with the professor is clearly important, but I think individual meetings with students, if at all possible, can also be extremely useful.  After speaking with your professor and getting a feel for some overall goals for the course you can draw up a list of questions for students.  You can schedule meetings as early as the first weekend of the semester and have them last no more than 15 minutes each. The idea, and what you can tell the students, is that you’ll ask them some questions fairly quickly and can talk afterwards more generally depending on how much time you have.  This is the list of questions I used for a first year seminar focusing on poetry:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What’s the last book you read outside of class?
  3. What’s your favorite book?
  4. On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like reading?
  5. What’s the last thing you read for English class?
  6. Have you ever read poetry for English in high school? What/When?
  7. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever read for English?
  8. How do you take notes when reading poetry?
  9. What do you think the hardest part of the writing process is? What do you think you want to work on the most?
  10. What’s your experience with an English paper’s thesis? How would you describe it in your own words?
  11. Do you have any prospective major ideas?

These questions can be tailored for various courses in whatever way that will best allow you to get to know the students fairly quickly and develop a personal connection to each of them.  Having an open, professional, friendly demeanor goes a long way and students are generally happy to get the chance to be heard as individuals.  Afterwards you can write a couple paragraphs summarizing the results and observations of these interviews to send to your professor, who might want to schedule an additional meeting to go over them.  This is really useful for professors because it’s harder for them to get this type of information as accurately and quickly.  These initial interviews could even raise issues not otherwise considered and ultimately shape the trajectory of the course you are working with.


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