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NExT strongly recommends a small focus group of four to six beginning teachers and two teacher educator participants.  During the focus group, one teacher educator participant will ask the questions and facilitate the discussion.  The second teacher educator participant will take notes and evaluate the early career teacher participants during the discussion.

 

Components of quality focus groups

(adapted from Grudens-Schuck, Allens, & Larson, 2004)
 

  • Focus groups provide insight, not rules.  As compared to survey methodology, focus group data are imbued with feelings and emotions—not merely a narrowed Likert scale response.  Focus groups provide the researcher the ability to “learn or confirm not just the facts (as in survey method), but the meaning behind the facts” (Grudens-Schuck et al., 2004, p. 3).

  • Focus groups are social, not individual.  Again, contrasted with survey methodology, individuals tend to allow social norms to influence one’s responses in focus groups.  The results of a focus group are then viewed as a group level response, not an individual response to the questions.

  • Focus group participants are typically selected to represent a particular group, not to represent a diverse set of experiences.  To ensure a successful focus group, the facilitator should:

    • Pre-determine certain criterion or characteristics in which to base your population sample.  For example: Elementary education teachers, secondary mathematics teachers, or teachers from a particular school district.

    • Invite more participants than you anticipate wanting in your group as not everyone will agree to participate.

    • Pay close to the safety and comfort for participants to increase their willingness to participate fully.

  • Focus groups are flexible, not standardized.  One of the primary philosophical underpinnings of this research is that the qualitative data obtained through focus groups are conversational.  However, the conversation of the group must be moderated well in order to have participants openly engage.

  • Focus groups are warm, not hot.  Participants do not feel comfortable openly discussing hot-button issues. For the purposes of educational program improvement, this may not be an issue.  Nonetheless, researchers must consider sensitive topic areas and avoid participant discomfort.

Table 4.8

 

Focus Group on Student Impact Protocol and Rubrics

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Case Studies of Impact on Student Learning

Case studies of Impact on Student Learning can be used to gauge the overall performance of an early career teacher through a holistic and context-specific analysis of teaching and learning within a classroom and school.  The case study process described here is targeted toward a deep and contextual analysis of individual beginning teachers using both qualitative and quantitative data.