interview recommendations

Artefact Chat oral history interview


Interviewer: Foundation to Year 2 student.

Interviewee: Local community or family member.

Adult support: Class teacher, parent or carer. Adult support is recommended so that digital technology can be properly trialled and managed. During the interview, the student should be focused on the question sequence and the interviewer’s responses.


Establishing interviewer-interviewee rapport


Encourage students to have pre interview contact and conversations with their interviewee before the day of the recording. This should involve the student, or their teacher or parent/guardian, approaching the interviewee to ask if they would like to take part in an interview. Choosing a time and place that is convenient for the interviewee is advisable and there is further information about managing the interview location below. Students should establish a positive relationship with the family or community member, ensuring they have won the confidence of the person so they feel comfortable talking about their experiences during the interview. Establishing a good rapport between the student and the family or community member can result in a successful oral history recording.


Interview location


  • Choose a quiet location to carry out the interview, and if it is indoors close any windows and doors to insulate against surrounding noise.

  • Choose a space where you are unlikely to be interrupted. You might like to provide three chairs and a table; ensure the least amount of distractions on the table, the recording equipment and the artefact should be all that is required. A sign ‘Interview in progress’ could be placed outside the door to alert others that an interview is underway. Alternatively, the interview could be carried out so that some environmental noise is recorded, for example theNational Library of Australia oral history recording of George Fry (1922 - ) interviewed by Bruce Simpson and Bill Gammage in the Drovers oral history project, 2006, includes the sounds of dogs barking and a garbage removal truck passing by, and sounds such as these can in fact provide an enhanced mental image for listeners about where the interview is taking place. To access this recording, the NLA recommend a free downloadable web browser, either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Enter NLA into one of those web browsers, select the Catalogue tab. Enter ‘George Fry’ into the search box, then select the Add limits tab and choose ‘Audio’ in the pull down list. Click ‘Find’. When the recording title can be seen, select ‘Listen Online’ to hear the oral history recording and to view the interview transcript.

  • If the artefact is a place in the local community, then an oral history interview carried out in that place might be appropriate, however, it is recommended students and their interviewee are seated rather than walking around whilst the interview is taking place.



Before commencing the interview proper, carry out a few trial recordings to ensure the equipment is functioning correctly, including management of ‘stop’, ‘pause’, and ‘start’ buttons. There are a range of computer technology that can facilitate the recording of an interview such as a desktop or laptop computer, or computerised tablet or smart phone with in-built microphone. There are a range of free digital recording applications that can be downloaded; ACT M&G have successfully used two free applications to record interviews, Voice Record Pro by Dayana Networks Ltd. (for Apple iPad) and Voice Memos (for Apple iPhone). It is recommended any equipment is trialled before recording any formal interview. Check if the digital recording format can be saved as a .wav file or .mp3 file, so that, if the interviewee and the student’s guardian have completed the Permission To Use Oral History Form (PDF), the interview can be submitted to ACT M&G for potential posting on our website.


Tips for a successful interview recording


Question structure should incorporate ‘open’ questions, rather than ‘closed’ questions
that elicit only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers. See the question sequence below for the style of ‘open’ questions that could be used. In addition to those, Foundation to Year 2 students might also include questions for their interviewee such as ‘Why do you like [name of artefact]?’,
‘Where did you get it?’, ‘How long have you had this artefact?’, What will you do with
this artefact?’, etc.

Once the interviewer has asked a question, try not to speak until the interviewee has entirely finished replying. It could be helpful to establish a signal, for example by raising their hand the interviewee can indicate they have finished replying to the question.

During the interview, seek clarification about words used by the interviewee that you don’t understand. If you are not familiar with a word the person you are interviewing, it is likely a listener of your age won’t know the word either. It is very helpful for your listener to have the interviewee elaborate and be specific about what they are talking about.

The interviewer should practice listening carefully to conversations before doing the oral history interview so that they recognise cues to react appropriately, for example; it is ok to laugh, briefly voice concern and encouragement, or to express encouragement as the interviewee communicates varying aspects of their experience. If the interviewee is struggling to recall a word or event, the interviewer should reassure the person by suggesting they can ask another question and come back to the question that is causing difficulty.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer should thank the person they are interviewing and indicate a positive response to the interview and what the person has shared, for example by commenting how much they enjoyed the interview, that it was either interesting, remarkable, enjoyable, a real pleasure, or amazing, etc.


The interview


Step One: Introducing the interview to the listener.

Hello, my name is [insert name of interviewer], and I am recording an oral history of [insert name of interviewee]. I am going to ask questions about [insert general term for the artefact that will be discussed, for example, a photograph of people on holiday, a toy, a coat, a microwave, etc].


Step Two: Develop interview questions and practice reading them aloud before conducting the interview. The important aspect to the interview questions is that they elicit details about who, what, where, when, how and why in relation to the artefact in question. When practicing the interview questions, vary voice tone and practice emphasising key words (for example words bolded in the sequence below).

The following question sequence is in relation to a photograph artefact.

  • [Insert name of interviewee], what do you remember about this [insert name of artefact]?

  • Where is the place in the photograph?

  • When was this photograph taken?

  • Who are the people in the photograph? About how old were [names of people in the photograph] when this photograph was taken?

  • Do you know who the photographer was?

  • What do you remember about [event in the photograph]?

  • Where is the [name of any artefacts seen in the photograph] now? Why have you kept this photograph for a long time?

  • How has the place in the photograph changed over time?


Step Three: Ask an ‘open’ question.

  • Is there anything else you can tell me about life in the past (for example; how you travelled, communicated, or games you played) when this photograph was taken?


Step Four: Concluding the interview by thanking the interviewee and making a positive comment about what was described during the interview.


  • Thank you for doing this oral history interview, [Insert name of interviewee], it was really [insert adjective: interesting/remarkable/enjoyable/a real pleasure/amazing].


For additional support and lesson strategies for conducting oral history interviews for students in Foundation to Year 4, please refer to Scootle, digital curriculum resources for Australian teachers. From Scootle’s home page, search for In My Day and Stan's story - Oral history. Please note a sign in and password could be required for this website.

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