Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title A Multi-Modal Approach to Teaching Interviewing in Geography
Originator Kevin M. Dunn and Jacquie McKenzie
Department School of Geography, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
Tel. +02 9385 5737

Interviewing is an increasingly popular type of geographical research method. It is a technique which is rarely taught in a comprehensive manner in geography. Furthermore, there is a dearth of published material on the use of computing applications to handle qualitative data. The intent of this multi-modal approach is to cover systematically all aspects of interviewing: design, practice, computer analysis and report preparation. The module has two explicit aims: (i) to inculcate a rigorous approach to interviewing and to the analysis of interview data, (ii) to introduce students to a computing package, called NUD.IST (non-numerical unstructured data indexing search and theorising), used for storing, sorting and managing qualitative data.

The module adopts an holistic approach and consists of the following components:

To teach both interviewing and qualitative data analysis comprehensively the module required two major expansions. The module had to be extended to seven weeks duration (half a semester) in order to cover all aspects if interviewing and to facilitate small group workshops on interviewing technique. A drawback associated with these changes is the need for more teaching resources. The software for the NUD.IST system is not too expensive (about double the cost of word processing licences). However, the purchase of multiple site licenses for group teaching can become costly. The software suppliers of NUD.IST provided sample data sets which lacked relevance for geography students. We replaced this sample data with a locally produced data set (derived from interviews on plant closure and regional economic restructuring). The use of the NUD.IST system requires that students have an understanding of basic word processing and desk-top management. Other costs of the module include the purchase of tape recorders and transcribers for field interviews and tape transcription.

Students were given a hands on approach to interview design, practice and analysis. They were required to complete a report based on an in-depth interview with a friend or relative of an older generation. The interview topic was 'generational changes to the access and use of space according to gender'. This is an accessible sample for students, it is also an appropriate sample for the issues of gender and space. Both the data sets used (gender and space, and regional economic restructuring) are well supported by geographical literature. Students extended their understanding of the issues.

In conclusion, this method of teaching integrates lectures, workshops, computing tutorials and fieldwork, providing students with a systematic understanding of interviewing and qualitative data analysis.

Relevant references:


Multi-mode teaching
Qualitative analysis

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