“Leaders cannot be leaders if they do not understand the needs of those people they lead. If leaders do not show they care, how could others feel safe and protected… yet alone capable and valued?” – Kyxie Dominguez, Education Specialist
Empathy Interviews provide an opportunity to really understand a student, or group of students, by diving deeper than the surface level question, “How are you?” and receiving the typical response, “I’m fine.”
These interviews inform intentional classroom and school level action by elevating student voices and garnering a better understanding of student needs (SEL and Well-being), and experiences (Engagement).
- Better understand a student’s/group’s experience around a particular space, environment, or situation.
- Gain understanding as to what students’ needs are, and how you can support them.
TEMPLATES AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
The below activity can be conducted as a focus group, or individual interview.
- Be a little vulnerable during an interview in order to gain trust. This shows you are willing to share, and trying to relate, but don’t forget the main focus is on the student, or group.
- Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
- Don’t be afraid of silence: Often if you allow there to be silence, a person will reflect on what they’ve just said and say something deeper.
- Look for inconsistencies: Sometimes what people say and what they do (or say later) are different. Gracefully probe these contradictions.
- Be aware of nonverbal cues: Consider body language and emotions.
- It helps to put the pen/pencil and paper down and have a natural conversation. Student’s can feel really tense when it seems as if you’re documenting their every word.
- Why did you decide to enroll at (school)?
– What did you think it would be like versus what you are experiencing?
– Has it met your expectations? Why/why not?
– What would you say about the school climate at this school?
- Tell me more about the program/course/pathway in which you are enrolled.
– What do you like best AND what is challenging (curriculum/learning, schedule, logistics) about your program?
- Please describe your experience with your classes and teachers.
– Does the material you cover in your content area classes connect to and make learning better in your program? Why/why not?
- What have you learned at (school) that you think will most affect your ability to get a job after high school?
- What resources and/or support do you think would be helpful to have to better prepare you for life after high school?
Empathy Interview Emphasis
- What does it mean to “feel like you belong” at school?
- Do you feel like you belong at (school name)? Why/why not?
– If yes: Can you think of another student who might not feel like they belong? What could we do to help them feel more connected to (school name)?
– If no: What do you think would help you feel more connected to (school name)?
- What makes (or would make) your time at (school name) meaningful?
- Tell me about a time at (school name) when you were motivated, inspired or driven. (Or not motivated)
- Do you feel like you have a say in what or how you learn at (school name)?
– If yes: Describe a time when you had the ability to direct your own learning.
– If no: In which areas would you like to have more input?
- Have you had opportunities at (school name) to express your opinion and be heard?
– If yes: Describe a time when you were able to express yourself.
– If no: Describe a time when you wish your voice would have been heard.
- Do you feel valued by your teachers and fellow students at (school name)? What contributions are you able to make to your fellow-students, your teachers, your classes or the program in general?
– General follow-up: Complete this sentence: “I feel an important part of something special when…”
- Describe some of your most impactful experiences at (school name). (They could be positive or negative experiences.)
- Do you have any other suggestions on how student experiences might be improved at (school name)?