Submitted by Brad Wile / Ohio Northern University on Wed, 07/01/2020 - 12:54
My Notes
Course Level
Topics Covered

The reciprocal interview is a first day of class strategy described by Hermann and Foster,1 centered around changing classroom norms. The instructor begins by interviewing students about their goals and expectations for the course, before later turning these around as reasonable expectations of the students. In essence, this is a strategy to invite students to think about the course in a business-like environment, and view their expectations and the instructor expectations as originating from the same set of motivations. These expectations then form the basis for the class norms for the semester. This approach is noted to help maintain a civil and safe environment where all class participants are invited to share their expectations for behavior.


1) Hermann, Anthony D. and David A. Foster. “Fostering approachability and classroom participation during the first day of class.” Active Learning in Higher Education 9 (2008): 139 - 151.

Learning Goals

A student should be able to express their expectations for a course in terms of specific goals or objectives, or expected behaviors.

A student should be able to translate their expectations of the instructor into complementary expectations that the instructor might have of them. 

Equipment needs

Board space or large post-it (I like that these work in many types of classroom)*

Polyhedral dice (if you want a reliable random student selection method)


*NOTE - For classes conducted online or in a socially-distanced setting, use of a whiteboard application (e.g. Google jamboard, Microsoft whiteboard, notability, etc.) or a shared document (e.g. Google docs) might help with recording responses.

Implementation Notes

Some prompting might be required. Initial responses such as "Get an A" should be acknowledged and directed toward more specific goals about learning or disciplinary skills. Some prompts include:

  • Are there specific skills or concepts that you are hoping to gain in this course?
  • How might this course be important for your future career? Your major?
  • Do you expect this course to be difficult or easy? What do your friends say about this course? (you can skip this one if it is too awkward!)

After students have had a chance to suggest expectations of the professor, it is important to affirm that these are appropriate and reasonable expectations before turning these around on the students. Examples of the language might be "just as you expect me to arrive on time, I expect you to arrive to class on time," or "Just as you expect me to be fair when grading your work, I expect you to treat me fairly by doing your own work, and putting forth your best effort."

I typically write responses on the blackboard or a large format post-it note. This could be delegated to a recorder for the class or for smaller groups depending on the size of the class. The responses are scanned and uploaded to the course LMS after the first lecture for the students to refer back. 

After ground rules are established, I typically have the students reflect on the phrase "descriptive inorganic chemistry" and compile responses. We discuss what these terms mean to the students, how this course might be similar or different from others they have taken to date. After a few minutes, students are asked to share their thoughts, using a polyhedral die of appropriate size if necessary to induce some responses. I emphasize that there really aren't wrong answers, since this is about initial expectations. We write responses on the board or a large format post-it note, and draw connections between thoughts/ideas and the individual words. This second part can take between 10 and 30 minutes depending on available time and the size of the class. 

Time Required
20 minutes


Evaluation Methods

Students are expected to participate in the activity and are assigned course participation points for the day. If students are not volunteering expectations, I usually ask them to participate or point out that it is an expectation that they all participate (if this has already been suggested). 

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Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

Very cool, Brad!  I did something kind of like this with my gen chem lab sections last spring. (I had gotten the idea from someone in IONiC...can't remember who.)  We brainstormed their goals for lab, I added some of my goals for lab.  None of them volunteered that one of their goals was "get out of lab as quickly as possible," so I added that one for them.

I'm looking forward to trying this in a more online setting this fall!


Thu, 08/13/2020 - 10:47 Permalink
Brad Wile / Ohio Northern University

In reply to by Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

Thanks @Anne ! I've been doing this for a number of years, and I was really pleased with how this went this year. One unexpected bonus was it set up a discussion about expectations in a way that invited responses I haven't always seen. My class was about 50% non-majors this year, and some shared that they were intimidated about taking their first "upper level" (and non-required) Chem course. I was really glad we were able to discuss that and make it clear that everyone in the class was meant to be in that class. 

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 09:45 Permalink