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Data collection in qualitative research focus groups october 2015

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CPD session at University of Liverpool by Jaye Mcisaac and Tunde Varga-Atkins

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Data collection in qualitative research focus groups october 2015

  1. 1. Qualitative data collection in Educational Research: focus groups J.McIsaac & T.Varga-Atkins Academic Development University of Liverpool November 2015 Photo credit: to Ian Willis
  2. 2. Outline • Situating focus groups in educational research • Why? (Purpose) • What? (Characteristics) • How? (Method/Process) • Key considerations
  3. 3. Your experience? • Have you been a participant in a focus group? • Have you been a facilitator of a focus group? • What qualities/attributes and skills are needed for each role?
  4. 4. Situating focus groups • Derived from market research context, increasingly popular in social science research • Data gathering process extends academic practice of exploratory discussion (Cousin, 2009) • A form of group interview • It is all about the group interaction • Useful to triangulate with other methods
  5. 5. Possibilities for focus groups Can be: • A lead-up to a larger quantitative study • Used with a quantitative study to deepen researcher’s understanding • A way to help researchers understand previous data collected by quantitative methods • Used with other qualitative methods e.g. interview • A stand alone method (Wilson, 1997)
  6. 6. Methods: from individual to group Surveys Focus groups Interviews Researcher present individual group Researcher not present
  7. 7. Methods: from individual to group Surveys Focus groups Interviews Researcher present individual group Researcher not present How many hours do you spend studying? What makes you study (more)? Can you tell me a bit more about what you do when you study? Thinking time? Participant motivation Bias by others? Shared experience?
  8. 8. Surveys Focus groups Interviews Bias? Useful when you don’t want others to bias your participant Potential of ‘group bias’ – participants say what they think you or other participants want to hear Useful when you don’t want others to bias your participant Shared experience? Participant relies on own experience – may be more difficult to recall. Useful to talk about shared experiences. ‘You bounce off ideas from one another’. Useful when you want to explore individual experiences. Thinking time? Relies on participant able to formulate their ideas without prompts. As ideas develop during the process, FGs are useful when this thinking time is useful. As ideas develop during the process, FGs are useful when this thinking time is useful. Motivation/Enjoyment ? Non-response and quality of response as a problem. Participants generally enjoy the process.* They learn something new. Participants generally enjoy the process. They learn something new.
  9. 9. Why? (rationale) focus groups “When people gather to talk about something, their contributions and understandings will be enriched by the group dynamic” (Cousin 2009) “To display and discuss differences in a group.” (Ritchie & Lewis 2003)
  10. 10. Characteristics of a focus group • Structured group activity designed to elicit views on topic(s) • Small group: 4-12 people • Meet 1-2 hours • With trained researcher/facilitator • Non-threatening environment • Explore participant’s perceptions, attitudes, feelings, ideas • Encourage and utilise group interactions
  11. 11. What is a focus group? Researcher/FacilitatorSize: 6-8 (4-12) participants Incentive Sample selection! Ethics: informed consent and reporting Audio recorder & other resources or stimulus material 1-2 hours
  12. 12. Part 1: Introduction Scene-setting, establishing trust • purpose • ground rules (conformity / convergence) • ethics • reporting 1. Introduction 2. The ‘Focus’ = questions 3. Analysis
  13. 13. Part 2: The Questions Low vs high moderation 2 questions 6 questions: exploring international student experience on campus 6 questions (Cousin 2009, p63)
  14. 14. Anatomy of a good focus group question with ready probes (Cousin 2009, p63) Preparation and good question (and prompts, probes) design is very important! English language Peer support Probing for range Probing for depth Study skills Can you say something about further support..? Open question
  15. 15. Sample questions • What aspects of the X best facilitated your learning? • What aspects of the X inhibited your learning ? • What aspects of the X caused the most stress/anxiety and did this stress/anxiety worsen or lessen as the X progressed? • Optional specific questions • Can you suggest one (two) different ways in which the X could be improved? (UoL curriculum review, 2013)
  16. 16. Key considerations Cousin, 2009 • Trustworthiness • Group Dynamics – Interpersonal – Intrapersonal – Environmental • Convergence or Conformity
  17. 17. Summary • Focus groups enable – exploring a shared experience. – the research benefits from the development of understanding and ideas in a group environment. – group bias or conformity is not likely/important. • Must be facilitated. • Valuable in terms of the quality of the data • Facilitator must attend to follow up questions, seeking alternative views • Nominal Group Technique can be used to end a focus groups (or used alone)
  18. 18. References • Focus groups – Cousin, G. (2009). Focus Group Research in Researching learning in higher education : an introduction to contemporary methods and approaches. – Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (2003). Qualitative research practice : a guide for social science students and researchers. – Varga-Atkins, T., McIsaac, J. & Willis, I. (2015) Focus Group meets Nominal Group Technique: an effective combination for student evaluation? Innovations in Education and Teaching International. Published online – Wilson, V. (1997) Focus Group: a useful qualitative method for educational research? British Educational Research Journal, 23:2 • Nominal Group Technique – Practical guide: Varga-Atkins, T., with contributions from Bunyan, N; McIsaac, J; Fewtrell J. (2011) The Nominal Group Technique: a practical guide for facilitators. Written for the ELESIG Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. October. Version 1.0. Available at http://slidesha.re/s5KPUr – Project report: Varga-Atkins, T. with contributions from Bunyan, N; McIsaac, J and Fewtrell, R. (2011) Using the nominal group technique with clickers to research student experiences of e-learning. Project Report written for the ELESIG Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. Available from slideshare.net at http://slidesha.re/sc8gwT

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