With student interviews, the researcher works with the faculty member to create a list of interview questions around a question/issue/topic. The researcher then interviews individual students and asks them to respond to the themes.

According to Merriam and Tisdell (2016), “in education, if not in most applied fields, interviewing is probably the most common form of data collection in qualitative studies.” In my research areas of interest – student engagement and instructor formative feedback – I have developed specific questions which I will test and refine for my future dissertation work (I will share them below) but none of those questions, no matter how exemplary they are, will work to obtain meaningful data (or information) if the method with which I capture them is faulty.

Care must be taken to craft objective, non-leading questions, and ask those questions to students once you have addressed the subject of the research, and ensured they are comfortable with supplying you information. Researchers should attempt to maintain a polite, professional, yet friendly space, use open body language, and pay attention to the student and his or her replies (rather than typing on a laptop or scrolling through a phone). Effort must also be taken to record the replies verbatim, helps ensure the validity of the research (using a video recorder, audio recorder, etc.). Questions that only yield a yes or no answer should be avoided; open-ended questions yield more detailed answers. Follow-up questions and probes can be used to delve deeper into the student’s responses.

Prior to the interview itself, any gatekeeping and barrier (noise, language, culture, consent, etc). issues must be addressed. Once the interview is complete, field notes should include descriptions, observations, direct quotations, and observer comments (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).


Research Question (draft, in progress)

What factors of instructor formative feedback positively impact student engagement in online courses?

Introductory Questions

  • What is your name?
  • What is your major, and your year/level (sophomore, junior) in school?

Interview Questions (draft, in progress)

  1. What does it mean for you to engage with course material?
  2. How important is engagement with course material to you? Why?
  3. How do you know you have “engaged” with course material?
  4. Can you describe a time when you really engaged with course material?
  5. What happens if you don’t engage with course material?
  6. Any other thoughts about engagement that you would like to share?
  7. Changing gears…what does the term “formative feedback” in online learning mean to you?
  8. How does “useful and meaningful” formative feedback help you perform as a student?
  9. Can you describe an example of “useful and meaningful” formative feedback an instructor provided you?
  10. What, if anything, did receiving this “useful and meaningful” feedback help you accomplish in the course?
  11. What happens if an instructor does not offer “useful and meaningful” formative feedback on an important paper or project?
  12. Do you feel that you can ask instructors for formative feedback?
  13. Any other thoughts about formative feedback that you would like to share