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Gaining the Child's Perspective on Relationships with Teachers: A Semi-Structured Interview

The following questions provide a general outline for areas to cover when meeting with a child to gain their perspective on the quality of the teacher-child relationship. Additional questions may be generated depending on the child and situation. As you are preparing to begin the interview, remember:

· Young children and those with cognitive limitations may be more comfortable with a play interview. (See "Conducting a Play Interview.")

· If the child has difficulty answering a question, consider rephrasing the question as applied to children in general or other children in the class (e.g., Replace, "What are some things this teacher does that make you feel good," with "What do teachers do to make kids feel good")

· Always respond with verbal or non-verbal affirmation of the child's view.

· Probe for specific experiences or incidents whenever possible (e.g., "Tell me about a time when you were angry with your teacher").

· Use props, markers, and toys to help young children communicate more easily.

Interview Questions

Interviewers should use the initial statements as conversation starters. State the phrase, e.g., " Sometimes teachers make kids feel good." Then pause for the child's reaction. Use the child's reaction to elicit continued conversation. Follow the Child's lead.


"I'd like to get some of your ideas about your teachers and things you do with them."

1. Who are your teachers? Who is the teacher you spend the most time with?

2. Sometimes teachers make kids feel good. What do your teachers do to make kids feel good? What are some things [teacher's name] does that make you feel good? What does she do that's fun? (Probe for specific examples and encourage the child to elaborate on what it is about these activities that makes the child feel good. Also, try to find out how often and under what circumstances these activities occur.)

3. Some teachers can help kids feel better when they are upset. When you are feeling upset, what does your teacher do to help you feel better? How does that happen? Again, probe for details.

4. Adults sometimes do things that make children upset. Even teachers can do things that make kids mad at them. What does your teacher do that might make you feel mad or sad? How does that happen? (As before, probe for specific examples and encourage the child to elaborate on what about these activities makes the child feel mad or sad. Also, try to find out how often and under what circumstances these activities occur.)

5. Teaches sometimes even get mad. What happens when your teacher yells or gets mad? Do some kids get punished? Do you ever get yelled at or punished? Probe for details.

6. Teachers have lots of kids in a class to pay attention to. It's hard to pay attention to lots of kids; some kids feel left out. What do you do to get your teacher to pay attention to you? How does it work?

7. Teachers are helpers. Lots of teachers like helping kids. Is this teacher a helper to you? How does she help you? Does she help other kids too?

8. Tell me about your favorite teacher ever. What things does [current teacher's name] do the same as your favorite? What things are different? (Probe for specific examples.)

Conducting a Play Interview


Be creative! If you don't have any of the following materials, you may consider spending one session with the child making figures and a setting. Use paper or popsicle sticks to make teachers and students, and a shoebox and construction paper to make a classroom. This activity provides an excellent opportunity to help the child relax as you begin to talk to the him about experiences with the teacher.

· Dollhouse or model of a classroom

· Variety of dolls, including at least several adults and children of both sexes.

Story Stems: (Follow each with, "I wonder what happens next?")

Use as many of these stems as seems appropriate or make up your own. Try to have the child elaborate on each story as much as possible. Additionally,

· Use reflective comments to support the child's storytelling;

· Ask questions about the child's feelings in each situation;

· See if the child is able to take the teacher's perspective by asking, "I wonder what she was thinking/feeling";

· Try to use a balance of stems, some that pull for teacher supportiveness and some that examine more stressful situations;

· Try to use "you" in some stems and "a kid" in others. Notice if a child responds more completely to one type of stem.

1. One of the kids in the class won't listen when the teacher says to be quiet.

2. Two kids get in a fight in the block area during free playtime.

3. You fall down and get hurt out on the playground.

4. You are working really hard on a math problem, but you just can't figure it out.

5. A kid comes in really late to class and the teacher is in the middle of circle time.

6. You can't find your homework to turn in.

7. Your teacher is sick and you come into class in the morning and there is a substitute at the door.

8. A kid gets really angry with the teacher because she makes him sit in time out.

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