Focus Groups

This method was borrowed from psychiatry in the 1950’s and developed as a marketing research technique.  It is now one of the most widely used marketing techniques today.

It is an exploratory process used for:

  • generating hypotheses
  • uncovering attitudes and opinions
  • acquiring and testing new ideas

 

This technique uses groups of 6-12 people in a relaxed, informal setting to participate in an unstructured interview.

The moderator helps the group focus on the discussion topic and guides the discussion so as to stimulate interaction and encourage the sharing of feelings, attitudes and ideas from all group members.

The facilitator usually selects a few questions for discussion.  How rapidly one can engage the group in conversation is an indicator of how good the questions and subject are:

 

Example:

CPCC has recently determined that 20 hours of professional development are “prescribed” annually for every employee.  The professional development office, in collaboration with the president’s office, decides to conduct some focus groups before the policy is enacted.

 

Sample Questions:

  1. What should the college keep in mind when developing staff development policy that involves a determined number of hours required for every full-time employee?
  2. What are the real benefits for the college of such a policy?
  3. What are the possible negative ramifications of this policy?
  4. What experiences have you or others had with such a policy in other places?