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Sample Assignment PSY 242W: Educational Psychology

Dr. J. Levine

First Written Assignment

Interview with a Teacher

For this paper you will conduct an unstructured interview of a current or former teacher.  This should help you gain a better understanding of what it is like to be a teacher and give you another perspective on some of the topics covered in this course.  This, in turn, should help you in making an informed decision about your career plans and help you better understand the course material. To get the most out of this assignment, you should interview someone who teaches the same grade/subject that you are interested in teaching.  However, this is not a requirement.  As a last resort, I will allow you to interview a college teacher, but I would prefer that you don’t. 

An unstructured interview is one in which you have specific questions to ask, but you are also free to deviate from your plan in order to ask follow-up questions or pursue a topic that presents itself.  The interview should be confined to teaching and related issues.  You are free to ask anything you want on that topic.  Think about what you would like to know about the job.  Your questions can range from the very practical (How long does it take to grade a 10 page term paper?) to the more philosophical (Given the influences of heredity, the family, and popular culture, can a teacher really make a difference?).  I would imagine that you would have both types of questions.

Try to ask questions that are thought provoking and require more than a yes or no answer.  Always be polite, but you should question, challenge, or follow up on (both in the interview and the paper) any answer that you disagree with or that puzzles or confuses you.  Please respect your interviewee’s right to choose not to answer a particular question.  Additionally, before you begin ensure your interviewee that he/she will not be identified by name. 

In your paper, identify your subject by position (H.S. math teacher or third grade teacher, for example) but use a pseudonym (Mr. /Ms. /Prof. X will be fine).  

Your paper should be written as a narrative, not in question-answer format.  However, it must be absolutely clear who is “speaking” at all times.  I also expect you to think about, reflect upon, and comment on the responses you have received to your questions.  For example, are you surprised by any of the answers (why?), does the job sound harder or easier than you thought, are you reconsidering your decision to become (or not to become) a teacher?    Your thoughts can be incorporated throughout the entire paper, or they can be presented at the end; the choice is yours.  Additionally, it is very important that your paper shows evidence of critical thinking.  Suppose, for example, your interviewee says, “The most important thing to remember is that you and your students are equal.”  You might question how that could be true when the teacher is older, more knowledgeable, and the person who is in charge and gives the grades.  It should be apparent that more sophisticated and content driven questions are likely to yield answers that lend themselves more easily to critical thinking than are simple biographical questions. 

Your paper must be typed in a 12-point type with normal margins (about one inch) all around.  Your paper should be 5-6 double spaced pages.

The paper is due on ________________.  If you turn your paper in late, you will be penalized one grade for the first day late, and one grade for each two additional days late after that, including weekends. 

Before I read and grade your paper it will be given to a classmate to read and comment upon.  It will then be returned to you for revision.  The revised paper is due on ______________________. The same penalties will apply if you miss this deadline.

After I read your paper it will be returned to you for a third (and I hope final) revision.  The revised paper is due on ______________________. The same penalties will apply again if you miss this deadline.

You will not receive a grade in the course if you do not hand in the paper, no matter how late.