Roots with Wings, a Floyd County Place-Based Education Project:: Intergenerational Connections

Floyd Story Center

Since 1998, a community oral history collection partnership of the Old Church Gallery, Ltd., Radford University’s Center for Social and Cultural Research, Honors Program, Scholar-Citizen Initiative, Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center, and Floyd County High School. Our archives now hold over 100 interviews.

In our Roots with Wings project, college mentors, high school staff, and community volunteers meet weekly during the school year to teach the discipline of oral history collection to Floyd County High School students.

Students learn ethical, methodologically sound interview techniques, practice and complete several interviews, transcribe the audiotapes, create searchable content logs, archive interviewee resources and period photographs, learn the technology of audio and video recording, research historical backgrounds, acquire proficiency in iMovie and storytelling, and finally extract a theme from an hour long interview to create a seven minute movie production.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Interview Skills & Techniques

Listening and Rapport

Thursday, February 11th, we returned to FCHS to discuss the importance of building rapport with our interviewee and using good interviewing techniques. Dr. Wagner and two of our RU mentors put on a two-parted skit, enacting how a bad interview would be held and how to achieve a good interview. 

 Dr. Wagner asks students to consider alternate interviewing techniques, 
while RU Mentor Kelsey Boyd writes their responses on the whiteboard.

Afterwards, we compared and contrasted the two performances and made a list of good procedures and what to avoid. We learned that there’s a lot more to conducting a good interview than our first impressions—it’s a lengthy, detailed and sensitive process.  It goes beyond building trust with our informant and letting them know the goals behind this oral history project.  It is also about our manners, how we conduct ourselves, and the techniques and skills we implement. As interviewers it is imperative we become active–listeners, that we are being observant, are asking open-ended questions and the right follow-up questions.  By doing this we can be more thorough in our investigation of regional communities and neighborhoods.   

-->  Blog post: Fiona Mahar-Milani


  1. Fantastic skills being learned by the Floyd County H.S. students! I had the pleasure of studying with Dr. Wagner a few (ahem, a few many) years ago and proudly attest to the value of learning the interview methods developed by cultural anthropologists. Throughout their work and personal lives -no matter the path taken- the students will find themselves better able to understand and communicate with people of widely diverse backgrounds and situations. I don't think there is "business success" book or "interpersonal communication" seminar that comes close to building the conversational ability and insight that results from conducting an oral history project. Thanks for freely sharing your work.


    1. Thanks, Charley! We certainly agree with all of the above, and hope you'll check back to see how our four planned interviews progress. Kathleen