Focus Groups

Focus groups can provide a wide variety of evidence about participants’ experiences, attitudes, views and suggestions, and results can be easily understood and used. Focus groups are structured discussions among 6-10 individuals who respond to specific open-ended questions designed to collect information on the beliefs, attitudes and experiences of those in the group.

These groups allow a small number of individuals to discuss a specific topic in detail, in a non-threatening environment. The success of this method depends on a well-designed focus group script (or protocol), a skilled, unbiased moderator and appropriate groups of participants.

Example of Focus Group Protocol

We have developed a focus group protocol that provides a detailed script for facilitators. It includes language for how to introduce the purpose and scope of the focus group to students and prompts for specific areas that departments may want to explore (e.g., curriculum, advising). Departments can adapt this protocol to their particular needs.

ASER General Focus Group Script 

Example of Focus Group Handout

We find it helpful to ask students to reflect on their experiences in and perceptions of their major before launching into the group discussion. This gives students some time to identify and organize their ideas, which typically leads to richer conversations.

ASER sample Focus Group Warm-up Sheet