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Through the Eyes of the Youth Experience with Programs at the Crissy Field Center Using the Focus Group Technique. Nina S. Roberts, Ph.D. Assistant Professor & Principal Investigator.

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Through the Eyes of the YouthExperience with Programs at the Crissy Field CenterUsing the Focus Group Technique

Nina S. Roberts, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor & Principal Investigator

inspiring young emerging leaders
Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL) encourages, prepares, and challenges young people from diverse backgrounds to be advocates for environmental and social change.

I-YEL is youth initiated, designed, and coordinated. They receive support and training in planning and implementing projects that create positive change in their communities. Through leadership development, career exploration, and goal setting, I-YEL participants acquire the skills necessary to be the leaders of today and the future.

Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders
urban trail blazers
Urban Trail Blazers
  • Middle-school students spend summers outdoors with a team of others their age having fun, learning new skills, and experiencing their national park.
  • Participants go on trips throughout the state as well as visiting various national parks. They also participate in 3-day excursion away from the city.
process overview
Process Overview
  • Agree on project goals, timeline, and budget
  • Decide on methodology
  • Involve Center staff
  • Conduct brief literature review
  • Organize and prepare supplies/materials needed
  • Conduct focus groups
  • Data analysis
  • Reporting and presentations
study purpose
Study Purpose
  • Conduct evaluation research of two youth programs and understand the program impacts and leadership development at the Center.
  • Incorporate evidence-based information and evaluative research results into park management planning and decisions for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
study objectives
Study Objectives
  • Examine the impact of Center programs on the youth involved as well as on their ability to influence their peers and others to be better stewards of GGNRA.
  • Determine if, and how, youth experience any behavior changes as a result of their participation.
  • Understand how the program affects youth academic and future career choices.
methodology and data collection decide based upon program goals
Methodology and Data Collection(Decide based upon program goals!)
  • Focus Group: A qualitative approach for studying ideas in a group context and proved means of identifying depth of meaning.
  • Interviews engage 8-12 people as a powerful means to understand depth of experiences, assess services, or test new ideas.
  • Group interaction is effective to produce data and insights that would be less accessible without the dialogue found in a group.
timeline and budget
Timeline and Budget
  • Focus group interviews would occur in July and August 2006
  • Data analysis = Fall 2006 (thru December)
  • Budget: $ 23K
    • P.I. and graduate student salary
    • Office supplies/materials
    • Transportation/mileage
    • Food/snacks for 4 focus groups
    • Printing costs
involve center staff
Involve Center Staff


  • I-YEL and UTB program directors
  • Center Director
  • Field (“line”) staff and program leaders
  • HOW
  • Set up rooms, logistics
  • Communicate with youth leaders
  • Review/agree on focus group questions
  • Respond to general program inquiries (as needed)
conduct brief literature review
Conduct Brief Literature Review
  • Try to uncover a few studies, or as much as possible, about what has previously been done (investigated) regarding your topic of interest.
  • Find other sources of information about these topics of interest. See how any or all fits within your project.
  • Key topics for youth study:
  • Experiential learning and urban youth
  • Service learning and youth
  • Healing the broken bond between youth and nature
supplies materials
Supplies / Materials
  • Audio tape recorder, microphone, cassette tapes
  • Notepads, pens
  • Sign in sheet for the kids
  • Healthy snacks – feed them!
focus groups broadly speaking

Low cost and quicker results

Facilitator can probe

High in face validity

Socially-oriented procedure

Ability to stimulate ideas and experiences among participants by allowing spontaneity and candor.

Focus Groups(broadly speaking!)


  • Interviewer should be carefully trained
  • Groups can be difficult to assemble (unless “convenience sample”)
  • Risk of increased “social desireability”
  • Analysis can be arduous and time consuming (qualitative data)
focus group process
Focus Group Process
  • Confirm semi-structured questions (prepared in consult with staff) are all set.
  • Arrange dates, times, locations for session(s)
  • Purchase healthy snacks
  • Organize audio equipment, supplies, etc.
  • Conduct interviews…
process cont d conduct interviews
Process (cont’d) –Conduct Interviews
  • Introductions (self, GRA), youth participating
  • Welcome and thanks for participation
  • Overview of topic & why we’re here
  • Brief discussion of “ground rules” (Examples)
    • Guarantee confidentiality
    • Speak one at a time
    • Seeking comments across the spectrum (+ and -)
    • Okay to feed off each other in terms of thoughts, etc.
  • Must ensure conversation flows and all kids get involved
  • Thanks and closure
data analysis good analysis is as free from bias as possible
Data Analysis“Good analysis is as free from bias as possible”
  • It all begins with your research questions!
  • Constant comparison technique (Glaser & Straus, 1967)
  • Identify (uncover) “themes, issues, and patterns” for each question using inductive process.
  • Refine the categories
  • Comparisons made both within and between youth groups to look for similarities and differences.
analysis cont d
Analysis (cont’d)

For basic evaluation - Engage in a “data reduction”

process in whatever way you are comfortable with!

Example of simple technique:

1. Read through detailed notes or transcripts of the dialogue,2. Identify the major themes in answers to each question, 3. Support themes with anonymous quotes, and4. Summarize or “top-line” your findings.

results and findings
Results and Findings

Common Themes Across All Groups

1. Connection to program & park

2. Program impact

3. Motivation to join

4. Social growth

5. Personal growth

6. Topic specific education

7. Improved school performance

8. Desire to increase outreach efforts

9. Contribution to the environment

10. Healthy lifestyles

results urban trail blazers
Results: Urban Trail Blazers

Overview of Focus Groups

  • These kids exhibited interest and concern for the natural environment. Most students suggested more than one motivation to join the program (e.g., “help the environment, family influence, get out of the house”).
  • For this group, it was more important to see tangible results from what they did. The UTB are in a developmental stage where having a good time, experiencing “fun”, is a clear personal objective.
  • The group dynamics for these kids is challenging, yet they seek to experience new and positive relationships.
  • “Learning” is relative to interests and current development in their stage of life.
i yel highlights
Bring back info to their community

Importance of sharing knowledge

Educate other people

Advocate on behalf of environment

Get to see the bigger picture

Starts to feel natural to care about the environment

“The first two years here I learned more than in four years in high school. Here I learn through young people, there’s less pressure and we are learning from each other not just from a teacher.”

~Nicaraguan male, 18 years old, 3 years in the program

I-YEL Highlights

Enriched knowledge and awareness of surroundings; increased confidence in activism

i yel alumni highlights
I-YEL Alumni Highlights

Program Impact

  • Ability to speak up on behalf of the environment.
  • To challenge people about their attitude towards the environment.
  • Significant increase in self-esteem.
  • Improved relationship with parents.
  • Increased ability to see the “big picture” of environmental and social justice issues.

* * * * * * * *

“I don’t just act or behave differently, I live differently. And

more appropriately I live better than I used to…”

~ 20 year old, Mixed-race female, three years in I-YEL, one year with UTB as Assistant Leader


report your outcomes

use your findings

  • Reporting
  • were objectives met? Y/N

(if not, find out why!)

  • who are you reporting to?
  • how will you present your data?
  • how will you report your findings?

(written, presentation, both)

  • conclusions / recommendations?

Thanks !

Nina S. Roberts

San Francisco

State University