facilitator departs from the script to follow promising leads that arise during the interaction.
Structured group interviews are less interactive than traditional focus groups and can be facilitated by people with less training in group dynamics and traditional focus group methodology. The group interview is highly structured, and the report generally provides a few core findings, rather than an in-depth analysis.
Sample Focus Group Questions
Purpose of Question
● I’d like everyone to start out by stating a word or phrase that best describes your view of the program.
Issue 1: Career Preparation
● Please tell us what career you are interested in pursuing after graduation.
● How has the program helped you prepare for your career or future activities?
Issue 2: Advising
● We are interested in your advising experiences in the program. Could you tell us about your first advising experience in the department?
● What did you find most useful in your interactions with your advisor?
● What would you like our advisors to do differently?
Issue 3: Curriculum
● Thinking about the curriculum and the required courses, how well do you think they prepared you for upper-division work?
● What should be changed about the curriculum to better prepare you for your career or for graduate school?
● We’ve covered a lot of ground today, but we know you might still have other input about the program. Is there anything you would like to say about the program that hasn’t been discussed already?
Focus Group Strengths and Weaknesses
● Are flexible in format and can include questions about many issues.
● Can provide in-depth exploration of issues.
● Usually has face validity—the questions generally have a clear relationship to the outcomes being assessed.
● Can be combined with other techniques, such as surveys.
● The process allows faculty to uncover unanticipated results.
● Can provide insights into the reasons for participants’ beliefs, attitudes, and experiences.
● Can be conducted within courses.
● Participants have the opportunity to react to each other’s ideas, providing
● Generally provides indirect evidence about student learning.
● Requires a skilled, unbiased facilitator.
● Their validity depends on the quality of the questions.
● Results might not include the full array of opinions if only one focus group is conducted.
● What people say they do or know may be inconsistent with what they actually do or know.
● Recruiting and scheduling the groups can be difficult.
● Time-consuming to collect and analyze data.