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● Match follow-up questions to the project’s objectives. For example, if the objective is to obtain student feedback about student advising, don’t spend time pursuing other topics.

● Do not argue with the respondent’s point of view, even if you are convinced that the viewpoint is incorrect. Your role is to obtain the respondents’ opinions, not to convert them to your perspective.

● Allow respondents time to process the question. They may not have thought about the issue before, and they may require time to develop a thoughtful response.

● Paraphrase to verify that you have understood the respondent’s comments. Respondents will sometimes realize that what they said isn’t what they meant, or you may have misunderstood them. Paraphrasing provides an opportunity to improve the accuracy of the data.

● Make sure you know how to record the data and include a backup system. You may be using a tape recorder—if so, consider supplementing the tape with written notes in case the recorder fails or the tape is faulty. Always build in a system for verifying that the tape is functioning or that other data recording procedures are working. Don’t forget your pencil and paper!

Interview Strengths and Weaknesses

Potential Strengths

Potential Weaknesses

● Are flexible in format and can include questions about many issues.

● Can assess the views of various stakeholders.

● Usually has face validity—the questions generally have a clear relationship to the outcomes being assessed.

● Can provide insights into the reasons for participants’ beliefs, attitudes, and experiences.

● Interviewers can prompt respondents to provide more detailed responses.

● Interviewers can respond to questions and clarify misunderstandings.

● Telephone interviews can be used to reach distant respondents.

● Can provide a sense of immediacy and personal attention for respondents.

● Open-ended questions allow faculty to uncover unanticipated results.

● Generally provides indirect evidence about student learning.

● Their validity depends on the quality of the questions.

● Poor interviewer skills can generate limited or useless information.

● Can be difficult to obtain a representative sample of respondents.

● What people say they do or know may be inconsistent with what they actually do or know.

● Can be relatively time-consuming and expensive to conduct, especially if interviewers and interviewees are paid or if the no-show rate for scheduled interviews is high.

● The process can intimidate some respondents, especially if asked about sensitive information and their identity is known to the interviewer.

● Results can be difficult and time-consuming to analyze.

● Transcriptions of interviews can be time-consuming and costly.

Focus Groups

Traditional focus groups are free-flowing discussions among small, homogeneous groups (typically from 6 to 10 participants), guided by a skilled facilitator who subtly directs the discussion in accordance with pre-determined objectives. This process leads to in-depth responses to questions, generally with full participation from all group members. The

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