"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Working through questions

Honestly, I have been breathing the all-consuming Capstone project lately (and my final reflection and my digital story) and haven’t spent as much time on the 1-2-3 Project as I would like. So I am going to use this space to work out some of my questions. One of the things I have learned in completing nine (!!) in person interviews in the past week for Capstone is that bringing a set of broader questions with room for more specific probes (in italics) really works.

We drafted an intro that we use to explain to the interviewee and I have modified for this project. While I will not read it word for word in the interview, it helps to have it in front of me.

As you may recall, this interview is part of a project I am doing for my Literacy and Diversity graduate class to examine the role of the Travel Authorization form at VCU. While I will be taking notes today so I can remember all the good points of our conversation, I want to assure you that our discussion will remain confidential. In my final project, I will remove your name and will attribute comments to your role (“fiscal administrator,” “director,” etc.). 

  1. Name and job title. 
  2. How long have you been working at VCU? 
  3. Please describe your role. 
  4. What is your experience working with the travel authorization form?  Any knowledge of the history? What is your role in the process? Who completes them in your area? What training have you had? What information do you need to know to complete it? Approve it? Where do you go for policy information? (To whom?)  
  5. What is working well with the TAF? How has Chrome River changed the process? 
  6. What can be improved? 
If you have suggestions, please let me know! I really want to know what to ask that will lead me to the good stuff.
I think the information I am looking for is some historical background and how one’s role (privilege?) plays into how they feel about the TAF. So far three people have agreed to an interview: an office manager (completes these for over 200 travelers), fiscal director and a faculty director who has lots of experience with traveling.[ETA: I just emailed two people requesting interviews next week: a contact from Lauren, an administrator who just did a TAF for the first time, and an employee who has frequently traveled as both a classified and faculty employee who can bring a unique perspective. I am certain I can work out my questions in the next week.]


  1. Hello Melissa -
    Good use of blog to work on these --we all benefit from the process! I like your interview questions and admire your efforts to stay broad and open with the initial questions. It seems to me that your questions are going to at least provide you with some interesting thoughts about how folks USE the form. (literacies-in-use). This is 100% awesome and there is nothing wrong with keeping it at this social (rather than cultural) level. It will still be worthwhile without a doubt. What we will not know is if the participants will be "triggered" by the questions or the form to tell stories that get at deeper relationships they have with it (i.e. how the form POSITIONS them). Given the CLASS system that you are working within- (i.e., the elitism that has such a huge positioning effect on others, at least if I understood your commentary this evening correctly) is it possible that the technical literacy-in-use issues are masking a much deeper and more intransigent power-saturated field of play? Would it be possible and useful to probe the literacy event for this deeper stuff? Would it just end up in a rant? Or would a systematic collection of such "witnessings" provide a potent tool to aim at a more long term fix to the way various groups of employees at VCU relate to each other? If you think it worthwile, then, maybe you could add a first question that gets at the broadest possible range of responses. I don't know, maybe "When you hear the phrase TAF, what comes to mind?" Or..maybe others have better ways to phrase this?? Thank you Melissa, for being open to this feedback from an "outsider.". Feel free to ignore everything I just said if I am off base!! :)

    1. I never thought about a "triggering" question but I love that idea! I will add it as the new #4! Thank you so much for your help.

    2. Melissa, I would like to comment on Dr Muth's recommendation "If you think it worthwhile, then, maybe you could add a first question that gets at the broadest possible range of responses." I received the same advice from Dr Muth. My question was "When I say the term Action Package, what do you associate with it?" Thus far the question has elicited some interesting responses --- most of them addressing the issue of "power." I am very grateful for the recommendation and I think others will find this type of opening question helpful also.

    3. Thanks Bob! I am SO glad it worked for you. I start my interviews today and I am looking forward to seeing how this question helped the inquiry--hopefully I'll post about it on the blog!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.