Focus groups are a form of data collection in which groups of individuals are asked to provide their experiences, feedback, and opinions on a specific topic of interest. This method can be more time intensive than a survey; but it can often provide more in depth feedback from individuals. A skilled facilitator and note taker can guide you through the data collection process.
The ARC has presented on focus groups at the American Evaluation Association conference. This presentation covered the key steps to completing successful focus groups. The ARC has written a workbook on focus groups. The University of Wisconsin-Stout offers two online graduate certificate programs in Institutional Research and Evaluation Studies. These courses have been utilized by institutions including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the UW-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute to build capacity in organizations across the nation. Focus groups are one module in both of the aforementioned certificate programs.
Recent Focus Group Projects
Infusing Diversity into the Curriculum
Focus groups were used to answer research questions about UW-Stout’s “Infusing Diversity into the Curriculum” initiative. These were conduct with students to receive feedback on how diversity and inclusion were integrated into their classroom experiences. Students were also asked to describe ways in which the diversity curriculum was relevant to their personal life, academic life, and future professional career.
INTERFACE Student Focus Groups
Focus groups were held at 16 Wisconsin technical colleges to measure the impact of a federal grant on the students. Students were asked a variety of questions related to the grant such as satisfaction, interaction with student support services (advisors, academic coaches, career navigators), internships, credit for prior learning, hands-on experience, future job outlook, etc.
Focus groups were used to determine the impact of campus labs on student success. Students were asked to explain how the provided resources were beneficial, how the lab experience impacted their academic performance, and if they have any academic needs not currently being met.