Peer Interviewing in medical education research: Experiences and perceptions of student interviewers and interviewees
Interviewing is one of the main methods used for data collection in qualitative research. This paper explores the use of semi-structured interviews that were conducted by students with other students in a research study looking at cultural diversity in an international medical school. Specifically this paper documents and gives ’voice’ to the opinions and experiences of interviewees and interviewers (the peers and the communities) on the value of peer interviewing in the study and outlines (i) the preparation made to address some of the foreseen challenges, (ii0 the challenges still faced, and (iii) the benefits of using peer interviews with respect to the research study, the individual and the institution.
Peer interviewing was used as part of a two-year phased-study, 2012-2013, which explored and then measured the impact of cultural diversity on undergraduate students in a medical higher education institution in Ireland. In phase one 16 peer interviewers were recruited to conduct 29 semi-structured interviews with fellow students. In order to evaluate the peer interviewing process two focus group discussions were held and an online survey conducted.
Key findings were that substantial preparations in relation to training, informed consent processes and addressing positionality are needed if peer-interviewing is to be used. Challenges still faced included were related to power, familiarity, trust practical problems. However many benefits accrued to the research, the individual interviewer and to the university.
A more nuanced approach to peer interviewing, that recognises commonalities and differences across a range of attributes, is needed. While peer interviewing has many benefits and can help reduce power differentials it does not eliminate all challenges. As part of larger research project and as a way in which to get ‘buy-in’ from the student body and improve a collaborative research partnership peer interviewing was extremely useful.