I have chosen the second objective, “To identify the factors that affect student decisions about whether to seek and secure a one-year ‘industry placement.” Students have different opinions on the issue, and therefore, to grasp different students’ opinions, a focused group discussion would work the best. It would be a perfect method due to four main reasons. Firstly, it measures reactions, not just opinions. A focused group would allow the researcher to observe the students’ reactions as they respond to the discussion. The reactions, especially the non-verbal cues, may send a meaning and help find answers to the objective. Experts in communication say that non-verbal cues send a stronger message than verbal communication (Argyle, 1969).
Secondly, it is time-saving as it involves one group discussion. Rather than the researcher spending much time interviewing each student, having a focused group discussion will enable them to finalize the research early. Thirdly, the research involves students, and students may not love having private interviews or filling in questionnaires. Students like engaging in discussions and speaking their opinions out as they interact and have fun. Thus, using a focused group method may be the most effective in researching the objective.
A focused group should be conducted logically. For a successful focused group discussion, some factors that the following section covers should be considered.
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Sampling Method and Size
The focused group method is qualitative, and therefore, participants can be selected by various means. However, mainly, participants are selected using the purposive sampling technique based on their knowledge, life experience, or role in the group, such as leaders (Khan & Manderson 1992). However, other sampling methods such as voluntary, convenience, or even probability techniques may be used. The size of the sample depends on the entire population of the area of study. For instance, in this case, a sample of about twenty continuing students may be selected through purposive sampling. Again, this will be determined by the total population of students of the area to be studied.
Venue and Resources Required
According to Angelfish (2015), the discussion venue should be a relaxed and comfortable place. The reason is that the researcher wants to fetch some information from the respondents; therefore, the respondents need to be comfortable. For instance, in this case, it should be a place where students are comfortable such as in a school hall, in their dormitories, or somewhere around the school premises. Also, some of the resources that may be required are visual aids like a projector or charts, some refreshments to attract their attention at the start of the discussion, or human resources like an education expert.
Leading and Managing the Focused Group
How a focused group is led and managed from the beginning can prompt the researcher to find useful information. Since the case at hand involves a focused group of students, the researcher must showcase the qualities of a good manager and leader at the same time. Some of the things that the researcher should focus on are three. Firstly, the venue should be arranged to make the discussion easier. The managing leader should make sure it is fit, such as the seat arrangement or a room with fresh air, because this will help them manage the discussion. Secondly, setting ground rules for the discussion may greatly help in leading and managing students. Students may be stubborn and rules might be needed to keep them calm and focused. For instance, a rule such as no one is allowed to talk when someone else is talking.
Thirdly, to lead effectively and to find as much information as possible, the researcher as the leader may opt to ask open-ended questions. Additionally, the questions should be clear and concise to allow respondents to comprehend them. In this case, an example of a question can be ‘What is your take on organizations that refuse to offer students with internship placement?’ in such a question, the respondent may be prompted even to talk more because it is open. Lastly, the leader should encourage group members who do not speak. The facilitator is tasked with the task of identifying those participants who may be willing to communicate but are afraid or those who wait to be permitted to speak. After all, it is a focused group where each individual should participate as their feedback may greatly benefit. Most of all, the facilitator should try to keep the discussion lively in every way possible, like engaging jokes and such.
Recording and Evidencing
A researcher needs to record the responses using a recorder or video for future reference and to provide evidence. Some researchers may be doing the study to gain an educational certificate or develop some theory. Whatever the purpose of the study, keeping a record is crucial.
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One of the benefits that focused group design has is that participants may be willing to give out more information because they interact amongst themselves, usually a group with the same interests. For this reason, the researcher collects much information that may help in coming up with an informed conclusion. However, even though the information is much, sometimes it may not be relevant. Some respondents may give dishonest responses while also giving out too much information. Dishonest answers may make the researcher conclude with false sentiments about the study. This may also be treated as a form of academic integrity because of relying on dishonest respondents. Additionally, respondents producing too much information may confuse the researcher when analyzing the findings. Even if the discussion is recorded, there might be information overload, which might contradict the researcher. Lastly, even though the method has much information, it may only come from the more outgoing personalities, leaving introvert’s suggestions out. In the end, the results may not reflect the opinion of the whole group as expected, rather than of some individuals. Therefore, as much as the focused group method is recommended, it may also be disadvantageous due to the discussed reasons.
Angelfish. (2015, May 26). Where should I host my focus group? Top tips for finding the right venue. Learn more about market research recruitment!. https://info.angelfishfieldwork.com/market-research-fieldwork-blog/where-should-i-host-my-focus-group-top-tips-for-finding-the-right-venue
Argyle, M. (1969). Non-verbal communication in human social interaction.
KHAN, M., & MANDERSON, L. (1992). Focus groups in tropical diseases research. Health Policy and Planning, 7(1), 56-66. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapol/7.1.56