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close this bookTraining Manual in Combatting Childhood Communicable Diseases Part I (Peace Corps, 1985, 579 pages)
close this folderModule 3: Community analysis and involvement
close this folderSession 10: Methods for learning about the community
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentHandout 10A: Four types of interview questions
View the documentHandout 10B: Suggestions for gathering information
View the documentHandout 10C: Types and sources of information on the community
View the documentTrainer Attachment 10A: Role play #1: The PCV and a local mother
View the documentTrainer Attachment 10B: Role play #2: The PCV and the town elder
View the documentTrainer Attachment 10C: Appropriate and inappropriate techniques for informal interviewing

(introductory text...)

TOTAL TIME: 2 hours


In addition to knowing what categories of information they need to learn about the community and ways of collecting that information, participants also need to develop skills in gathering information that they will continue to use throughout their work as Peace Corps Volunteers. In this session, participants observe and act in two role plays. Through these role plays, they practice their observation, listening, and interviewing skills, and examine cross-cultural considerations for gathering information. By the end of the session, the group has a firm set of guidelines to follow during the subsequent visit to the local community.


· To practice observation, listening, and inter viewing skills for gathering information. (Steps 1-3, 6)

· To identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviors or techniques used for gathering information in two role play situations. (Steps 3-5)

· To develop a set of guidelines for effective interviewing that is appropriate for the local community. (Step 5)

· To list other kinds of information-gathering techniques and tools for potential use in the future. (Step 6)


Community, Culture and Care, Chapter 1


- 10A Four Types of Interview Questions
- 10B Suggestions for Gathering Information
- 10C Types and Sources of Information on the Community

Trainer Attachments:

- 10A Role Play #1: PCV and Local Mother
- 10B Role Play #2: PCV and Town Elder
- 10C Appropriate & Inappropriate Techniques for Informal Interviewing


Newsprint, markers, props for role play


Trainer Note

Prior to the session, prepare for the role play on informal interviewing (Steps 2-3) by asking a host country training staff person to play the role of a local mother. Provide the "mother" with her role description (Trainer Attachment 10A) and encourage her to include her own experience and ideas in acting out the role. Help the role players assemble appropriate props to make the scenario more life like. Also, ask for a volunteer from the group to play the part of the PCV, give him or her the role description, and again encourage creativity in acting out the role. Do not allow the two role players to plan out the action together. Instead, they should briefly think about their characters and act spontaneously in relation to what the other says and does. Emphasize to the PCV role player that the role is built around a Volunteer who has recently arrived in his or her community. Consequently the PCV will be far from the ideal image and will make many mistakes. As such, it is all right for the role player to make mistakes which the large group will discuss and learn from.

For the second role play which occurs in Step 6, elicit the help of another staff member to play the part of the town elder. Please note that the overall purpose of this second simulation is to point out several differences between formal and informal meetings and interviews.

Step 1 (10 min)
Making a List of Potential Techniques for Gathering Information

Open the session by having participants think back to the previous session and the plans they have developed for investigating the local community. Ask the group to make a master list of all the techniques or methods for gaining information they have mentioned in their plans. Explain that the purpose of this session is to explore observation, listening, and interviewing as separate and interrelated skills which all development workers need to practice in order to carry out effective community analysis. Demonstrate the importance of these three skills by underlining each item on their brainstormed list that involves observing, listening, or interviewing. Mention to the group that other methods of information-gathering will be treated during later sessions.

Step 2 (5 min)
Introducing a Role Play in Informal Interviewing

Explain to the group that they will now observe a role play illustrating an informal interview between a mother in the local community and a Peace Corps Volunteer who recently started his or her two year assignment there.

While the two role players are setting up, de scribe the scene for the group and explain their tasks as observers:

- Everyone tries to identify effective and non effective behaviors and techniques used by the PCV while interviewing the mother.

- Each participant is also assigned one of the following - observation, listening, or cross cultural concerns - as a specific area to focus on during the action.

Trainer Note

The role play is designed to accomplish two goals. First, it provides the group with an example of interviewing that includes some appropriate and some inappropriate elements. All participants should try to identify these elements as they watch the action. Secondly, it helps participants become more aware of what they can learn from observation and listening, and how the cross-cultural nature of their situation affects communication. This can be accomplished by asking participants to count off one, two, and three: All the "ones" are asked to concentrate on using their observation skills to watch the action and note what the PCV is or is not learning with his or her eyes. All the "twos" are asked to focus on listening to the verbal messages being sent back and forth between the players and the meanings behind those messages. All the "threes" are assigned the task of paying attention to any aspects of the interview which are particularly interesting or difficult because of the interaction between two cultures.

Step 3 (15 min)
Acting Out the Role Play

Have the two actors do the role play of the informal interviews.

Step 4 (20 min)
Processing the Role Play

First, debrief the role players by asking them to discuss how they felt regarding the information they learned about each other and/or the community, and the difficulties they encountered gathering that information. Ask the large group to analyze the role play using the following questions to promote discussion:


- What happened during the role play?
- What did the PCV learn about the mother and her community? What did the mother learn about the PCV?

For the Observation Group:

- What did the PCV learn primarily through observing the woman and her surroundings?
- What did the PCV miss observing that could have provided more information and insight?

For the Listening Group:

- What did the PCV learn primarily through listening to the mother?

- What did the PCV miss hearing that might have provided more information and greater understanding?

- What are some less obvious things we can try to listen for to gain more information? (e.g., the variation in kind and degree of emotion in someone's voice when discussing different topics, use of proverbs and idiomatic phrases for saying something indirectly, use of repetition, etc.)

For the cross-cultural group:

- What were some specific cross-cultural moments during the interview? Which moments did the PCV handle well? Which moments were difficult for the PCV and mother and what could the PCV have done to improve communication?

- Did the PCV use open, direct, forced-choice, and/or leading questions? What kinds of answers do these four kinds of questions elicit? How can we use them more effectively?

As the group identifies appropriate and inappropriate behaviors exhibited by the PCV during the role play, write them on newsprint, (one sheet for the "good" behavior, another for the "not so good".).

Trainer Note

See Trainer Attachment 10C for a list of appropriate and inappropriate techniques for informal interviewing.

If participants have trouble understanding the use of the four types of interview questions, distribute Handout 10A (Four Types of Interview Questions) and have them work through the exercise included at the end. Be sure they have a good grasp on formulating appropriate questions before their field practice in the next session.

Step 5 (15 min)
Guidelines for Effective Interviewing

Ask participants to work down the newsprint list of inappropriate behaviors, giving suggestions for how they could change those into appropriate behaviors. Have a member of the group add these to the newsprint list of appropriate techniques.

Have the group look at the entire list of appropriate techniques from the role play. Ask them to use this list to develop a set of guidelines for conducting informal interviews in their communities.

After they list their guidelines for how to interview, ask participants to discuss the manner in which they decide who to interview. (see Trainer Note).

Trainer Note

In deciding who to interview, the PCV can do the following:

1) Identify the subgroup(s) of the community that may have the needed information.

2) Talk with people both inside and outside of these subgroups and elicit names of members who are knowledgeable about the interview topic.

3) Meet with these members, explaining that they have been identified as knowledgeable in the topic.

4) Conduct the interview asking at the end, "Who else should I talk to about this?".

5) Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until the list of names are mentioned repeatedly.

Step 6 (30 min)
Role Playing a More Formal Situation

Ask the group to examine how their interview guidelines might be modified for more formal situations such as an interview with the town elder or village chief. Have the group role-play another interview situation, this time between a PCV and the town elder. Give a volunteer from the group a role description for the part of the PCV. Allow a few minutes foe the preparation. Meanwhile, introduce the staff member who will play the role of the elder and set the scene for the group. Have the role play (approximately 10 minutes), debrief the players themselves, and then ask participants to discuss:

- the differences in technique/approach between the informal and more formal interviews

- how interviews with mothers, clinic health workers, merchants, and village elders might vary in style and in the kind of information which may be learned

- the potential use of the other kinds of information-gathering techniques that were mentioned in Step 1 (e.g., random survey, systematic observation, indexing, reading signs/maps/posters, looking at health records, etc.)

Step 7 (15 min)
Reviewing Plans for the Community Investigation

Distribute Handouts 10B (Suggestions for Gathering Information) and 10C (Types and Sources of Information on the Community), and tell participants to use them for supplemental information and ideas. Also suggest that they read through Chapter 1 of Community, Culture and Care. Have the work teams (from Session 9) assemble and look over their plans for the community investigation. Ask them to use the rest of the hour to incorporate into their plan any new ideas and information gained from this session.

Trainer Note

An optional activity for the end of this session is to have participants break into triads and practice interviewing each other. Have them exchange the roles of interviewer, interviewee, and observer until everyone has had an opportunity to play all three.