Focus groups are popular with researchers. Everyone is holding them! Personally, having been in a few myself, I’ve got reservations – mainly about what can happen when the group contains a dominant, highly-opinionated and apparently knowledgeable individual. Yet I could see a potential benefit of a student focus group on Sounds Good: a way of getting beyond the routine and rather superficial questionnaires we were issuing, asking students about their experience of receiving audio feedback on their coursework. It seemed worth a try, so I built it into the project design.
I consulted the staff team who were actually giving students the audio feedback. When would be a convenient time to hold a focus group? How should it be publicised? Inevitably the answers varied, but I went for a compromise on the timing: 4pm on a Monday in a week when classes were winding down but exams had not started. The publicity – clear and friendly, I thought, with assurances about confidentiality – was issued several weeks in advance via the staff team, inviting interested students to get in touch with me. The incentives – about which, looking back, I didn’t consult – were a £30 book token and light refreshment, for an hour and a half of their time. That would do it, surely. I would be spoilt for choice!
Er, no. Of the 400+ students who received audio feedback about their work, only one contacted me to say he would come to the focus group. So I cancelled it.
Does this only happen to me? I’ve since spoken to several people about it and drawn some comfort from their comments that it is difficult to lure students to focus groups these days. But were they just being nice to me? Have you succeeded where I failed? If so, how did you do it?
(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)