In this lesson, students listen to an interview with a local leader and make preparations to extend the interview by focusing on the skill of asking generative questions.
- Students will plan an extended interview with a local leader.
- Students will appraise the value of different types of questions for gaining insight into the work of a local leader.
As you think about facilitating student contacts with local leaders, bear in mind that civic leadership comes in a variety of forms and many groups and organizations contribute to the health of civic life. Think not just of political leaders (though they may of course be included) but of leaders of non-profit agencies, church programs, local services—anyone in a leadership position who intersects with a cross-section of the local community and so must reckon with the diverse perspectives of community members. Consider how you can use this interview to practice hospitality and build bridges—can you choose a leader who is not from your students’ majority ethnic group or denomination, for instance?
In preparation for this project, you will need to identify a local leader with whom you can record a short conversation. Arrange this in plenty of time to give you the chance to do any editing of the interview. Seek assistance from an audio-visual specialist in your school if needed. The interview could be recorded as audio or video. Check local media for any articles that could provide additional context for the leader’s work and/or issues that come up in the interview.
Note that this lesson sequence presupposes that students have had some engagement with the frameworks explored in the lessons on Hospitality. Without such engagement the connection to faith will be less clear. Consider the degree to which you want to explicitly review those earlier connections at the start of or during this lesson sequence.
This is a lesson sequence where we focus specifically on engaging students in practices where they can develop hospitable dispositions. As you prepare this lessons you may find it helpful to read the Insights material on hospitality and teaching.
Preparing the Activities
For this lesson you will need:
Time to contact and record an interview with a local leader.
Teaching the Activities
Choose a local leader who serves a cross-section of the community and arrange to conduct a short, recorded interview with them. (You could have them visit in person but beginning with a recording offers students a model that is relevant to the tasks that they will complete later, so a recording is recommended even if a live visit is available.) As you think about facilitating student contacts with local leaders, bear in mind that civic leadership comes in a variety of forms. Think not just of political leaders (though they may be included) but of leaders of non-profit agencies, churches, local services – anyone in a leadership position who intersects with a cross-section of the local community and so must reckon with the fabric of diverse civic interaction. (If you select a pastor, for instance, be sure to focus the interview on the relationship of the work to the wider community, not simply on church leadership, since our focus here is on civic engagement.) Consider choosing a leader who is not from your students’ majority ethnic group or denomination as a way of modeling and practicing hospitality, so that the resource that you create reinforces the message of these lessons.
During your interview, include at least the following questions:
- What is the work that you do?
- How does your work connect you to a cross-section of the local community?
- What changes do you work to bring about in the community?
- What challenges face you in your work with the community?
- How does your faith inform your work in the community and your interactions with those you serve?
- Give examples of how you have to work together with people of differing convictions.
- Where do you see signs of hope in your work?
Also gather any relevant articles or other media that give a context for the work of your selected leader.
In addition to recording the interview, invite your chosen leader to visit class (in person or virtually) for a follow-up interview on the second day of this lesson sequence. Let them know that students will prepare questions for them, but that you will first ask them if they would like to expand on anything from the recorded interview. Suggest that they consider giving a more extended example from their work. Let them know that the class has been reflecting on hospitality to others as a civic virtue.
Phase 1: Reviewing the interview (20 minutes)
Present the recording to students in class and then have them read any accompanying articles, view any accompanying images, etc. These can be handed out or posted to your learning management system. Spend a few minutes reviewing with the class what they have learned about the leader’s work from the recording and articles.
Phase 2: Preparing questions (25 minutes)
Once students have reviewed the material, tell them that they will have a chance to interview this person further. Begin with a brief discussion of different kinds of questions:
- Draw students’ attention to the difference between convergent questions (questions that push the interviewee toward a specific kind of answer, such as “are you for or against x”) and divergent questions (questions that can lead to a more open-ended response, such as “what do you think are the most difficult parts of your work with the community?”).
- Ask students for examples of questions that contain an accusation (“how can you defend being part of…”) or are veiled statements, apparent questions that are actually used as a chance to declare the questioner’s own view (“I think x is wrong, wouldn’t you agree?”). Discuss with students what kinds of questions are hospitable.
- Ask them to consider what kinds of questions might be generative for the class’s learning about civic hospitality (“what do you think about the idea of approaching differences through the lens of hospitality to others?”) and which might not (“do you have a dog?”).
Have students work in pairs for ten minutes to list additional questions that they could ask the leader in the recording in order to understand more about their work, and specifically how their work contributes to civic needs and navigates civic and political differences. Gather the students’ lists of questions and discuss as a class which are the six most important or most likely to lead to insight. You could do this in various ways such as:
- Use an online resource such as slido.com to create an online meeting in which questions can be upvoted or downvoted.
- Have students write their lists of questions on posters and then circulate around the room and each place a mark by what they consider the best two questions on each poster, before voting as a class on the highest scoring candidates.
- Have students type their questions into a shared document, display them, and start a process whereby all but six must be eliminated by students proposing one to eliminate and confirming or rejecting the proposal with a show of hands.
Phase 3: Review questions (5 minutes)
Have students do a final review of the list of six chosen questions against the following criteria:
- Will these questions give us more insight into the work of the person interviewed?
- Will these questions help us to understand how this person’s work contributes to the community?
- Will these questions help us to understand how this person approaches civic differences?
Let students know that they will have a chance to ask other questions once these six have been asked.
Phase 4: Think ahead
Finally, discuss with students how the interview itself can be hospitable:
- How should the furniture be arranged?
- Should anything be provided for the speaker?
- Who will provide it?
- How should they be welcomed to the school?
- How should they be welcomed if the meeting is online?
- How should they be thanked?
- What body language will communicate engagement with them during the interview?
Avoid making this a series of admonishments to behave well—focus on letting students identify and articulate ways to make this interview a hospitable act, pushing for elaboration and clarification as needed. Ask for volunteers to ask each of the six prioritized questions. Tell students to be prepared to take notes during the interview for discussion afterwards.
If you have been using previous lessons in this resource to explore the idea of civic hospitality, briefly review the main themes and ask for one or two volunteers to summarize to the interviewee during the interview what the class has been learning.
Communicate the six chosen questions to the visiting leader ahead of their visit, suggesting that they respond to each for about 3 minutes.
Hosting an interview
In this lesson, students conduct a more extended interview with a local leader and explore the relevance of civic hospitality to their work.