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Activity 9 - Do's and don'ts of life story interviewing


To explore how to be an effective life story interviewer.

Curriculum area(s)

  • Year 5 upwards
    • History/Geography local studies
    • Media Studies
    • English

Suitable for adults with learning disabilities?


Learning outcome(s)

Students generate a list of interviewing do's and don'ts and develop basic interview skills.

Time required

60 minutes



  1. The videos, made in 1996, show interviews with residents of Lennox Castle, a Scottish Institution, both conducted by Howard Mitchell. Select short extracts from the two video interviews to show.
  2. Ask students to observe Howard’s questioning style. What did he do well? What did he do less well? Did he use different techniques in the two interviews? What sort of questions worked best?
  3. Make a list of interviewing do’s and don’ts from the discussion.
  4. Divide students into groups of three. One to ask questions; one to respond; one to observe - and film with the tablet if available. Allow five minutes for each role. Questioner’s brief is to ask the responder about their life as a child.
  5. Debrief after each five minute role play. Ask the responder how it felt, what the questioner did well; what might s/he have done differently. Then ask the observer to do the same. If available, show the tablet video of the interview.
  6. Repeat so that everyone has a turn in each role.
  7. Sum up the session by refining the list of do’s and don’ts.

Ideas for follow up

Repeat the exercise, using a different topic, drawing on the revised do's and don'ts.

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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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