A learning journey

How can we work with a dispersed team of research assistants, working in several countries and in challenging situations? In September, a virtual training was delivered for 11 JWL Research Assistants tasked with interviewing graduates of the Diploma in Liberal Studies about the impact the programmes had on their lives and those of their communities in Jordan, Afghanistan, Kenya and Malawi.

The goal of the training was to give the research assistants an overview of how to conduct semi-structured interviews, with an emphasis on how to address personal biases and improve reflexivity while working in a cross-country and cross-culture project. 

The training was structured in two sessions. During the first session, we discussed the objectives of the research project and delved deep into qualitative interviewing. Two key moments of the training were the ice-breaking exercise, in which we reflected on what makes a good or bad interviewer, and the session held by Prof. Barbara Schellhammer (Munich School of Philosophy) that allowed the participants to reflect on their own cultural and personal bias. We also used break-out rooms to make the participants practise as interviewer and interviewee.


The second session was held few days later, once the research assistants had the opportunity to test out the interview protocol in full with one of their colleagues, as all of them are also Diploma graduates. This second session allowed the participants to fully unpack challenges related to the interview protocol at stake, as this peer-to-peer exercise worked as a pilot to the whole research data collection process.

The global team shared new discoveries and challenges throughout the subsequent two months of internship through weekly meetings and regular correspondence via different virtual mediums. 

The final part of this learning journey took place in the last week of October, during a Zoom seminar in which we wrapped up the internship experience, what they gained and what they learnt, and presented how the collected data are being analysed.