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Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning Focus Groups

Using Focus Groups for Program Assessment at WSU

Focus groups offer a way to get feedback about student experiences, perceptions, and motivations, and are often a good choice for programs doing assessment. For programs and departments wishing to assess the learning experiences of undergraduates in their majors, there are several possible types of focus groups.

Examples of different purposes for focus groups include:

  • A group of seniors nearing graduation – focus groups provide an opportunity to ask a number of different program assessment questions about students’ overall experience of the major, such as students’ perceptions of how well pre-requisites prepared them for later classes or their understanding of the skills needed for success in their field
  • Assess experience of the first student cohort in a new curriculum mid-way through the curriculum, so that adjustments can be made, and again in the senior year
  • To test survey questions
  • In response to results from other assessments – to add depth of understanding to the results of a survey, for example; focus groups can add a dimension of causality to assessment, helping us understand why students behave the way they do and how they perceive their learning experiences

However, some assessment questions can be better addressed using a survey than a focus group. When to use a survey or a focus group includes these considerations:

PurposesSurveyFocus Group
To understand what, how often, to what extentX
To understand how or whyX
To get information from many people (50+)X
To test a new idea, practiceX
To get feedback on a new idea, practiceX
To contextualize survey findingsX
To gather a wide range of responsesX
*Adapted from University of Hawai'i at Manoa Assessment Office

Resources for Focus Groups

ATL is available to conduct focus groups for undergraduate programs, contact us for additional information.

Program Spotlights Related to Focus Groups

Washington State University