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Focus group research for Extension Agents

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  1. Focus group research for Extension Agents How this easily adaptable tool can be used for needs analysis, pre-testing and evaluation Paul Monaghan FFL In-Service Training May 21, 2014

  2. What is a focus group? Group interview guided by a moderator. Usually 6-8 people who may be randomly chosen to participate or selectively chosen because they all share some experience or opinion of interest to the researcher.

  3. Why Conduct a Focus Group? • A valuable information collection tool for initial understanding of a topic or program • A very useful tool for collecting information on the human dimensions of natural resource issues • Allows you to gather information on diverse stakeholder perspectives • Commonly used in the business/marketing world to understand audiences • Used to pre-test messages, materials and products • Often used in survey design

  4. I have used focus groups to… • Uncover social marketing concepts (audience analysis, barriers to change, hidden benefits of behavior change) • Assess community or organizational needs • Foster participation in a future program • Test survey questions • Pre-testing educational and marketing materials, messages, graphics, etc.

  5. Important Distinctions of Focus Groups • Many other activities often confused with focus groups: • Discussion groups • Delphi groups • Community forums • Town meetings • Brainstorming groups • Focus Groups collect and analyze qualitative data on opinions, attitudes and perceptions • They use group interaction to stimulate discussion • They have structured discussion guides but can and should be open to wider discussion of topics

  6. Focus Group Basics • Minimum number to conduct • Min and max number of participants • Who participates? • Not trying to generalize to a larger population • Attempt to dig deeper into why people have different attitudes, knowledge and behaviors, how they will react to something, what their interests are • Ethics and privacy

  7. Components of Focus Groups • Questionnaire design • Planning and Recruiting • Moderating • Analysis of data • Getting feedback on results; reporting

  8. Designing good open ended questionsExercise 1 • Begin by thinking of an audience or group of stakeholders- HOA members, landscape contractors, workshop participants. • What are 3 things you would like to learn from them to understand their interests, their beliefs, why they do something you don’t understand.

  9. Write those 3 learning objectives on a piece of paper • Now begin with an icebreaker question. Something like, “what’s the best thing about…” • Here are some examples from my work: • What makes this a strong community? • What is the one thing we can do to preserve large bass in the state? • What does an “environmentally friendly yard” look like to you? • Do you ever worry we won’t have enough water? What makes you say that?

  10. Now come up with 5 conversational questions • Start out with broad or general topics • Narrow it down to a more specific topic • Decide on probing questions and follow-up questions • Make sure they are “conversational” questions • Tell me about the time when… • If you were the boss… • In five years, what would this look like? • What haven’t we discussed here that you think is important?

  11. Practice your questions with someone • Explain your 3 research objectives • Practice your questions out loud • Modify if they are awkward or complicated • Ask your partner to suggest probing questions or follow ups • Write down all suggestions • Finalize your icebreaker and 3-5 questions • We will debrief together and ask “Will they start a conversation?”

  12. Can we conduct a focus group with FFL Educators about the new water savings survey?

  13. 2. Planning and Recruiting • Conceptualize, define key questions and goals • Identify target groups, number of groups • Outline costs and budget • Travel for coordinators, food/beverages, room costs, equipment and materials, staff, etc. • Arrange logistics • Venue, food, voice recording, human subjects approval, note taker(s), etc. • Develop focus group script

  14. 2. Planning and Recruiting • Identify target stakeholder/demographic group(s) (e.g. urban residents, environmental NGOs, local government, etc.) • Develop recruitment strategy and timeline: • Who will be recruited and how? e.g. random phone calls, local expert contacts, e-mail, hand-written letters, etc. • How many will be recruited? (Ideal number for a focus group is 6 to 8 people) • Rule of thumb: Recruit 12 to 15 in order to have 6 to 8 show up.

  15. 3. Moderating • Prepare and practice detailed focus group script that moderator uses as guide • A focus group moderator will: • Establish clear ground rules, expectations • Create a safe environment for sharing opinions • Encourage different points of view-- do not force voting or reaching consensus • Encourage group interaction, idea sharing, conversation • Use “subtle group control”, e.g. encourage quieter members to speak, politely control dominant participants

  16. Challenges of Moderating • Managing group dynamics and personalities • Creating a safe, neutral environment • Building trust • Gathering opinions and perspectives from everyone present • Not leading or persuading, remaining neutral • Stimulating discussion • Maintaining focus on topics in script • Being respectful of everyone while moving through discussion script efficiently

  17. 4. Analysis and reporting • Archive your notes, observations, debrief with others • If you have recorded it, transcribe it • Add demographic or descriptive features to the speakers • Read and reread • Make notes in the margins • Use different colored highlighters • Cut and paste

  18. Projects using focus groups to understand homeowners and conservation behavior in the landscape Manatee County: Stormwater Ponds, nutrient control and landscaping issues. Alachua County: Water conservation in the landscape to protect springsheds; GRU evaluation of soil moisture sensor pilot project. Hillsborough County: Tampa Community Tree Program.

  19. Projects using focus groups to build community capacity to address other Extension issues • Escambia County, Florida Sea Grant, developing new programming to address coastal resilience and sea level rise. • Levy County (Cedar Key), learning from the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, how can Gulf communities increase resiliency for future disasters? • Lee County (Pine Island Sound), Florida Sea Grant, how can commercial and recreational fishermen work together to protect natural resources such as seagrass?

  20. How can a state conservation organization use focus groups to understand its target audience? • Black Bass Management Program is a long-term, science based and citizen guided plan to establish Florida as the undisputed Bass Fishing Capital of the World • Developed collaboratively by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and a Technical Assistance Group of anglers, guides, business owners, tourism industry and university researchers.

  21. Why are Black Bass Important? • 3 million acres of lakes • 12,000 miles of rivers, streams and canals • Bass anglers spend 14 million days fishing a year • 1.25 billion to state’s economy • Florida’s bass has been used to stock fisheries around the world

  22. Key component is TrophyCatch

  23. The TrophyCatch program will: Create a statewide record keeping system to document catches of trophy bass. Instill a stronger catch and release conservation ethic among anglers. Educate anglers about the importance of trophy fish to our fish populations. Allow the public to participate in the management of Florida’s unique aquatic resources. Provide an understanding of the necessary components of a trophy fishery. (Do focus group participants share these goals?)

  24. Lunker Club (8-9.99 pounds) - $65 plus in value TrophyCatchLunker bass Requirements: Photo documentation of ENTIRE bass (head to tail) on scale with weight clearly legible + TrophyCatch application + Bass must be released. Competition: Year-round. Begins October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Reward: $50 Bass Pro Shops gift card + Customized Bass King T-shirt + Discounts for Sportsman on Canvas and other prizes + Entered into drawings for gift cards from Bass Pro Shops and Dick's Sporting Goods + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatchLunker Club window decal. Trophy Club (10-12.99 pounds) - $150 plus in value TrophyCatch Trophy bass Requirements: Same as Lunker Club requirements (above). Competition: Year-round. Begins October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Reward: $150 worth of gift cards (Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods, and/or Rapala) + Long-sleeved Bass King shirt + Discounts for Sportsman on Canvas and other prizes + Entered into a drawing for fishing trips + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatch Trophy Club window decal. Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or greater) - $1,000 plus in value TrophyCatch Hall Of Fame bass Requirements: Same as Lunker Club requirements (above). Competition: Year-round. Begins October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Reward: Free fiberglass replica mount ($500 value) + Gift cards worth $200 (Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods and Rapala) + Bass King duffle bag with customized hoody, shirt, hat + A Glen Lau DVD + Honored at annual rewards event + Name entered into Florida Bass Hall of Fame at Florida Bass Conservation Center + Entered into drawing for fishing trip with Peter Miller (Bass2Billfish) + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatch Hall of Fame Club window decal + Additional prizing to be determined.

  25. Focus Group Guide • What one thing should be done to increase the population of trophy bass in Florida? • What actions do you take to preserve these bass? • Are there management practices that could be more effective at preserving trophy bass? • How did you become familiar with TC? • Are you familiar with the prizes offered? • What do you think the goals of the program are? • Have you reported a fish to TC? • What was that process like for you? • Do you think anglers would participate without the prizes? • What would motivate you to participate and motivate others?

  26. First round of coding • What is one thing that should be done to improve the number of trophy bass in the state? • Why is it important to you to support TrophyCatch? • How did you become aware of TrophyCatch? • What do you know about the rewards offered by TrophyCatch? • What are the barriers to participating in TrophyCatch? • What was it like to register a fish? (website problems)

  27. Second round of coding (splitting and lumping) • What is one thing that should be done to improve the number of trophy bass in the state? • Catch and release (more trophy lakes and better enforcement). • Environmental concerns (development, pollution runoff, weed control) • Slot limits (taking smaller bass or limiting large bass) • Tournament limits (including a focus on improving survival (reducing mortality) • Why is it important to you to supportTrophyCatch? • Fish genetics (mentions of breeding programs, comparison with other states) • Promoting Florida fishing • Miscellaneous responses (Provide Data; Marketing-Economic Development)

  28. Second round of coding (using Max QDA) What do you know about the rewards offered by TrophyCatch? • Lack knowledge • Importance of prizes • Guide rewards • Suggestions What are the barriers to participating in TrophyCatch? • Fish health • Items needed for reporting • Reaching audiences • Attitudes

  29. Conclusions • Are you doing them yourself, hiring a contractor or working on a team? • Minimum numbers • Practice the questions, modify them, get feedback • If the first one goes badly or takes you in new directions, regroup and modify • Ethics and privacy • Recruiting

  30. Sources • NOAA Social Science Tools for Coastal Programs: Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups ( • Morgan and Krueger The Focus Group Kit. Sage Press. • Richard Krueger, Designing and Conducting Focus Group Interviews (