CLP’s approach to design starts with a shared understanding of students’ experiences. Focus groups can play an important role in developing this understanding, and we have supported several colleges to conduct focus groups with students and with faculty, staff, and administrators.
CLP recently worked with Cañada College on focus groups to support the college’s effort to “stand against racism and support Black Lives Matter” and more specifically to inform the development of a campus cultural center. The college leadership sought to understand the needs and experiences of their diverse college community and wanted to create a space where participants could speak freely. CLP conducted seven focus groups specific to participants’ race/ethnicity/identity with a trained moderator who identified with that population.
We’ve also engaged practitioners in action research to build the capacity of colleges to conduct focus groups on their own, from design through implementation and analysis. This was outlined in the CLP brief, From Voice to Action: Putting Students at the Center of College Redesign, which describes the work of East Los Angeles College and El Camino College. CLP provided the training, co-moderated some of the focus groups with the college teams, performed an initial round of coding and analysis, and trained college practitioners in identifying and coding emerging themes and transcript analysis. In the process, the college teams gained insights into students’ experiences which they directly applied to redesign efforts. But the teams also realized two additional benefits from taking this approach—it helped them build capacity for making data-driven decisions and it assisted in laying the groundwork for structural changes to integrate students into the redesign process as a routine practice.
Ongoing work with Reedley College provides an example of focus group research with faculty, staff, and administrators. In this case, CLP is supporting the college in developing an equity mindset and culturally-responsive practices across the institution. CLP will be working with the college team to review focus group findings and results from a faculty/staff survey to develop professional development slated for the fall semester.
CLP’s brief, From Voice to Action: Putting Students at the Center of College Redesign. See the appendices for the focus group protocol and an example of the informed consent form.
The RP Group’s recent brief, Moving from Student Voices to Action: Insights from Practitioners at 10 California Community Colleges, offers many helpful considerations for making the most of focus group research.