Below are two examples of interviews to assist you in designing your interview. You may choose either to interview the student about a phenomena (event) or concept (instance).

Example of an Interview About Instances 

The purpose of this interview is to investigate children's ideas about animals in an individual interview, the child ("C") is shown a series of cards with pictures of familiar animals (including mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates), and non-animals (including plants and non-living thing). For each card, the child is asked if he/she thinks the example is an animal, and why or why not.

Animal Interview

A. INTRODUCTION: "I would like to find out about your meaning for the word "animal". Is it OK with you if I tape record your answers so I can remember what you said later?"


I: "In your meaning of the word animal, is a ________ an animal?"


I: "Why do you think so?"


I: "Is there any other way you know that a is an animal?" (or you may wish to compare with earlier responses).


I: "These are the things you said are animals, and these are the ones you said are not animals. What would you say makes an
animal an animal? Thanks for working with me.

D. VISUAL AIDS: A set of 10 cards with various pictures of animals and non-animals, presented in the following order: cow, bird, boy, tree, snake, fish, dog, insect, fire, worm.


Example of Interview About Events

The purpose of this interview is to investigate children's ideas regarding what happens when water boils, evaporates, and condenses, and when ice melts. A series of events involving ice melting, and water boiling, condensing, and evaporating are shown to a student in an individual interview situation. Familiar kitchen equipment is used to demonstrate the phenomena, e.g., a glass coffee pot for boiling. For each event, the child is asked to describe what s/he sees happening, then is asked to explain, in his or her words, what has happened.

States of Water Interview


"I would like to show you some things that use water-I am sure you have probably seen them before. I will show you each event and then I will ask you to describe what you see. Is it okay with you if I tape record your answers so I can remember what you said later?"


  1. Demonstration: A glass coffee pot on a hot plate with water boiling in it.

    The question: "What do you see in the coffee pot?"
    Then: "What do you think the bubbles are made of?"
    Then: "What, in your opinion, is boiling?"

    Demo: Steam from the coffee pot condensing on a saucer placed above the pot. 

    The question: "What do you think the steam is made of?"
    Then: "What do you think is on the saucer?"

    Demo: Water evaporating from the surface of the saucer.

    The question: "What do you think has happened to the water on the saucer?"

    Demo: Blocks of ice placed in a baby food jar and the lid screwed on. After a time moisture from the air condenses on the cold part of the jar.

    The question: "From where, do you think, the water on the outside of the jar came?"

  2. Demo: A block of ice melting on a teaspoon. The question: "What do you think is happening to the ice on the spoon?" 


"Is there anything else you want to say about your understanding of water? Thanks for answering these questions!"

From: Osborne, R.J. & Cosgrove. M. M. (1983). Children's conception of the changes of state of water. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 209, 825-838.