Focus Groups A Key to Improving Student Success. Presented by: Charles Welch Academic Coordinator- Developmental Math Aiken Technical College. What is a Focus Group?.
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Focus GroupsA Key to Improving Student Success Presented by: Charles Welch Academic Coordinator- Developmental Math Aiken Technical College
What is a Focus Group? • A Focus Group is a representative sample of people brought together to share their knowledge, experiences or opinions about a particular topic. • Focus Groups often are able to get at the reasons behind issues exposed by hard (Quantitative) data.
Focus Group Uses • Expose barriers to success in a particular course or program. • Expose barriers to retention of new or returning students. • Expose barriers to student graduation. • Brainstorm potential solutions for all of the above. • Gain broad based understanding and input about a topic.
The Focus Group Process Planning Considerations • Start with Quantitative Data that identifies problem areas. • Call together a Focus Group Facilitators Team to fashion questions to get at reasons for the problems. • Consider who you want input from. Input from audience who has successfully overcome barriers is best. • Plan for 3-6 focus groups of 6-12 people from your target audiences in each Focus Group. • Schedule appropriate rooms- Space for semicircle of chairs facing a clear wall. • Materials include “Staples Stickies”, Markers, Sign-In Sheets, Index Cards, Pens, a Recording Device and Treats. • Send out invitations to your Focus Groups.
Recruiting for Focus Groups • Using “Captive” Audiences is the best way to ensure participation. • Incentives: • Food can help- Pizza and soda • Starbucks $5 gift card • Chance to win a $100 gift card • Opportunity to let your voice be heard • Opportunity to help future students • Extra Credit in a class. • Other components of recruitment effort: • Students recruiting other students • Follow-up invitations with reminders two weeks before, one week before, three days before, two days before, the day before, and the day of the focus group
Facilitator Considerations • Set up the room early. • Welcome participants with treats as they arrive and create a relaxed conversational atmosphere. • Make Introductions and explain the purpose/importance of the group. • Draw everyone into the conversation. • Use language that tugs at the heart. • Specify broad barrier statements by asking, “What about……” • Stay with the Question referring back to the Blue Box. • Control your recorder- Read behind what is written.
Recorder Considerations • Generally stay out of the conversation. • Wait on your Facilitator’s cue to write. • The Facilitator will help the group find the right language for the Recorder to capture. • Label wall posters by date, time and facilitator. • Be sure Barrier Statements are numbered. • Help keep up with time and pacing. • Give feedback to facilitator afterward. • Help with set-up, clean up and materials.
The Blue Box Concept Degree, diploma, certificate, transfer Students No degree Slightly altered from the article, “Developing local Models of minority student success. Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, and Trevino (1997).
Barriers Pop Up as Students Navigate Their Way Toward Success Degree, diploma, certificate, transfer Students No degree Slightly altered from the article, “Developing local Models of minority student success. Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, and Trevino (1997).
Focus Group Participants are viewed as the Experts in terms of knowing barriers and how to overcome them. Degree, diploma, certificate, transfer Students No degree Slightly altered from the article, “Developing local Models of minority student success. Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, and Trevino (1997).
Applying the Framework to Different Contexts:The First SemesterWhat barriers do students experience during their first semester? What Strategies and attitudes do they employ to successfully persist? Successful persistence Students Drop-out/stop-out
Applying the Framework to Different Contexts:The Course ContextWhat barriers do students experience as they attempt to complete a specific course? What knowledge, actions, and attitudes do they employ to successfully complete the course? Successful course completion Students Non-completer/unsuccessful completer
Applying the Framework to Different Contexts:The Advisement PerspectiveWhat challenges do Advisors experience in advising students? What knowledge and methods do they employ to successfully advise students? Successful Advisement Advisor Ineffective Advisement- Students Confused
The Unfolding Matrix as a Tool for Conducting Focus Groups Slightly altered from the article, “Developing local Models of minority student success. Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, and Trevino (1997).
The Unfolding Matrix • Barriers What would you tell your best friend coming into this ________ are the most significant barriers to success? • Frequency How many of you have experienced this barrier? (Record as 8 of 11 or % the Group believes the Barrier is experienced by others) • Strategies What did you need to know or do to overcome this barrier? • Changes If you were in charge and could change anything you wanted, what would you change that would help with overcoming this barrier? • What Works In terms of thinking about this barrier- what are we doing now at this college that has helped you?
Solution Focused Variation • Ask each participant to rank their top 3 barriers by giving the greatest barrier a 3, the next greatest barrier a 2 and their third greatest barrier a 1. • Tally the votes. • Do a solution list for the group’s top 3 barriers.
Data Analysis for Barriers • Gather all the barrier comments from all the focus groups. • Look for common themes and begin to group the comments by these themes. • Rank the themes by the number of comments in each theme and the number of focus groups that made comments relevant to that theme. • Dominant themes will emerge.
Using the Data • Dominant barrier themes can be addressed in strategic and annual plans. • Solutions listed by the group can be shared. • Barrier information can be shared with various stakeholders (students, faculty, staff and community). • Changes shared by groups may be implemented. • “What works” can be bolstered and expanded. • Data may be used in grant applications.
Sample Finding: A Broad Theme Balancing MultipleObligations/Time Management • Cited in all five focus group subject areas. • As a sub category, “conflicts with work” it was cited in 3/3 community groups. • The college wide groups and gatekeeper math groups cited this broad category in 3 different ways. • 5/6 gatekeeper English groups cited this as a barrier • Cited by 5/6 college wide groups. This data became part of the basis for adding a lab to our math 031 classes to build in study time for students.
Sources • Kenneth Gonzalez, PH.D. Achieving the Dream Data Coach • The Unfolding Matrix: A Dialogical Technique for Data Acquisition and Analysis. Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez and Trevino