Liberating Structures, Setting the tone activities

Appreciative Interviews

To invite students to use their bodies to represent, collaboratively, an image of something that is worth discussing.

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Appreciative Interviews
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Video conferencing, Breakout rooms, Shared online space
Duration: Variable

Activity purpose

To help groups identify elements of success.

Useful for

Helping students prepare for working together in groups or on a project or on something with a common output.




Students work in pairs then in fours, then regroup with the whole group, using breakout rooms and Google docs.

  1. Each pair interviews each other for 5 minutes at a time, asking the other “Think of a time when you did _______ successfully, what made that experience successful?The interviewer stays quiet, and can ask probing questions that just encourage the interviewee to expand, such as “why do you think that is?” or “tell me more” but does not offer their own reaction/feedback. After 5 minutes, they switch roles. It helps to take notes of key elements in the other person’s story.
  2. Pairs match up with other pairs to make fours. Each person in a pair tells the story of the person they were interviewing and brings out key elements of success. After all have shared, they make a list of elements of success that they can try to take forward.


10 minutes for the first round in breakouts of pairs.

10 minutes for the second round in breakouts of four (you can skip this step if you wish).

And then debrief in the main room would vary, depending on how much depth you go into in terms of letting all groups share out orally or in writing.

Adaptations and examples

This can potentially be done asynchronously where each person writes up (or does a video of) what they would say in an interview, and then the group analyzes the written text of each other to identify elements of success using annotations or create a list separately.

Technical requirements

Breakout rooms and Google docs if done synchronously.

Useful resources

More 'Liberating Structures' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
Survey students early in the semester: Pre-Course Survey
Use a pre-course survey to get to know your students early on in the semester.
Maha Bali
Equity Unbound Activity
15% solutions
Discover and focus on what each person has the freedom and resources to do now.
Maha Bali, Jasmina Najjar
Equity Unbound Activity
Troika Consulting – Adaptation for Class Community Building
Get students used to supporting each other without always turning to an “expert” for solutions.
Maha Bali

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