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Exercise Three: Asking Good Questions, Getting Great Answers

Page history last edited by Digital Explorations 14 years, 10 months ago

Materials:  Story drafts— choose a story draft from those brought in today (preferably not the one you used in Exercise Two though if you have lots of ideas for new material, you may of course return to that draft).


Time: One Hour


Set-up: This exercise works well if participants are paired with someone from their small group.  It is also possible to practice group interviews, in groups of four or five.  Following the interviews, the small groups will again come together; the full group will discuss results at the end.


Objectives: To develop skill as an active listener and question-asker; to explore an effective interview arc; and to develop sets of questions for story interviews


The most promising questions are open-ended and allow the storyteller (interviewee) to take ownership of the interview/story.  Preparing the teller for the questions you will ask often leads to better answers.  We recommend sending out a list of questions before the interview.

You are already prepared for this interview as you have heard one story from your partner in Exercise Two.  Take the story draft you have chosen for this exercise.  Reread it, for it will be the focus of the interview.


1.  Make a list of open-ended questions you think someone might wish to ask you about your story. (5 minutes)


2.  Tell your partner which story draft you have chosen, but do not tell the story. Without having read your partner’s story, but knowing which topic s/he chose, generate a list of questions to ask your partner, letting the kinds of questions you came up with for your own story help you write good questions.  (5 minutes)



The goal is to keep the interview focused on getting the interviewee to tell either:

*Story A Why are you here, in Damariscotta?

*Story B How do you stay?

*Story C What would make staying better

in such a way that what the teller values about the community is detailed and clear, nd the interviewee feels appreciated and heard.


a.  Partner A interviews Partner B, asking the questions prepared in #2, but departing from them when and if necessary.  Keep the interview goal in mind! Have your partner show pictures, if possible. (15 minutes)


b.  Swap roles.  Interview.  (15 minutes)


c.  In small groups, discuss what you learned about asking questions and listening—what did you notice about yourselves and one another as interviewers and interviewees?  What did each role tell you about the other? Which were useful questions?  Which questions and kinds of questions did not accomplish much in the time allotted?  What did you learn or notice about how to listen well?


4.  Large-group discussion (20 minutes)

As the small groups share the lessons learned, the workshop leader will write them down:

Techniques for starting the interview well:

Kinds of useful questions

Less useful questions

Good listening strategies

Poor listening strategies

The story of an interview:  How to start, keep things moving on track while honoring the voice of the interviewee, and end the interview


5.  Refer to the Tip Sheet for more ideas about listening and asking good questions.


Document Version for Download Exercise Three.doc


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