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Focus groups for qualitative research and program evaluation

December 6, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm


A 6-hour workshop taught by Julie Posselt, Ph.D.



Focus groups are ideally suited to gather individual perspectives and explore areas of shared and divergent understanding in a structured format. Lessons learned through focus group can provide a useful complement to other types of data in mixed and multiple method projects. More than nice conversations, they present unique design, logistic, analytic, and ethical challenges that warrant careful consideration before jumping in.

This six-hour workshop situates focus groups within a broader framework of qualitative and evaluation methods, and will equip you with design principles and practical skills that ensure your next focus group hits a sweet spot between efficiency and rigor.

Expected outcomes

Through the workshop, participants will understand the distinct purpose of a research-oriented focus group and how to connect focus groups to other data collection methods. They will have an arsenal of design principles for every stage of the process, from writing questions, to facilitating the discussion of those questions, to systematically analyzing the transcript. Participants will gain practice with two key activities: (1) writing questions for a protocol of their own and (2) analyzing focus group data from a recent research study. By the end of the day, they should be confident about how and when to put focus groups to use in their own research and program evaluation projects.

Pricing and Schedule

Time: Thursday, December 6, 12:00PM to 6:00PM (EST)
Cost: $225
Location: Online

We offer $25 graduate student and multiple workshop discounts. Find out about our discounts here.

Time permitting, Dr. Posselt will also answer questions about participants’ specific research projects. Participants can ask questions via chat, microphone, or telephone. In order to allow sufficient time for questions, the number of workshop participants is limited to 30.

Who should attend?

The target audience for this workshop is researchers and administrators who are thinking about how to develop focus groups or improve their rigor in their research and/or organization. This is an introductory level course that does not presume prior knowledge of or experience with design or facilitation of focus groups.


  1. Focus groups relative to qualitative and program evaluation methods
  2. Principles to aid in determining when focus groups may be an appropriate data collection method.
    1. What spurious uses of focus group data should be avoided and why?
    2. How can focus group data can complement other forms of data?
  3. Focus group formats and designs
  4. Developing questions and protocols
  5. Strategies for participant recruitment and group facilitation
    1. Considerations in composing a focus group. What are the trade-offs in various approaches?
    2. Working with commonalities and differences of perspective within the group
  6. Methods for analyzing and writing about data obtained during the focus group.
  7. Ethical considerations & Common challenges
    1. Managing unexpected group dynamics (e.g., the dominator, the group of introverts, tensions with respect to social identities)
    2. Following up regarding sensitive and personal topics that come up
    3. Member checking your findings with participants

About the instructor

Julie Posselt is an Assistant Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. Using multiple methods and organizational and sociological theory, Posselt’s research is aimed understanding and mitigating institutionalized inequalities in higher education. Her current work examines the implications of status competition and organizational decision making for student access, attainment, and wellbeing. She has strong interests in research methods, and has been conducting mixed and multi-method research for fifteen years.

Julie recently completed a major qualitative study of faculty decision making in graduate admissions that was published Fall 2015 by Harvard University Press. Other work has been published in American Educational Research JournalResearch in Higher Education, Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. She is a member of the editorial review board for Journal of Higher Education.

Learn more about Dr. Posselt here.



December 6, 2017
12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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