Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Four Lessons in Conducting Focus Groups

Developing Digital Student Leaders: A Mixed Methods Dissertation on Student Leadership, Identity and Decision Making.

Why focus groups?

I choose focus groups because of the dynamic nature of the research questions, based in social media activity.  “Focus groups are advantageous when the interaction among interviewees will likely yield the best information and when interviewees are similar to and cooperative with each other” (Creswell, 2012, p. 218).  Because I specifically sought out college student leaders who actively use social media, this fits into the recommendations by Merriam (2009), gathering participants that know about the topic.  “Focus groups work best for topics people could talk about to each other in their everyday lives—but don’t” (Macnaghten & Myers, 2004, p. 65).

How many do I need?

Michael Quin Patton (2002) wrote about sample size in mixed methods.  “There are no rules for sample size in qualitative inquiry because size depends on the number of factors such as what you want to know and what will have credibility” (p. 244).  Creswell (2012) recommends that these would include a group interview between four to six people, while Merriam (2009) extended this range up to ten.  Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009) proclaimed that a sample size will depend on a researchers funds and time.  My groups ranged from four to ten in attendance.

How did I get participants?

I obtained participants through a nomination process from higher education professionals on each campus who could speak to the requirements of the study which include: are in good standing in their student leadership position, have at least one year in a leadership-related campus position/involvement and are active on at least two social media platforms.  Utilizing the assistance of a primary contact at each university, email communication was sent to administrators who work directly with student leaders for these nominations.   I received 60 nominations, resulting from 40 confirmed participants.

NEXT STEP: Focus Group Analysis.

Focus groups will be transcribed using the recordings from two sources to ensure quality recording, including both audio and video.  This qualitative phase seeks to answer the research question:  What role does social media play in the identity and experiences of college student leaders?  Through the process of coding, the researcher will be open to all possibilities.  As Merriam (2009) describes, the researcher assigns codes to data to develop themes or categories.  Further, Creswell (2012) defined coding as the, “process of segmenting and labeling text to form descriptions and broad themes in the data” (p. 243).  This process will be continuous. 

While transcribing, I will make highlights of the content separately in a journal.  While reviewing the focus group transcripts, phrases and words will be coded based around the research questions.  As I code, I will go back to the focus group transcripts and continue making meaning of the data.  After developing sufficient codes, themes will begin to emerge, which are “similar codes aggregated together to form an idea in the data-base” (Creswell, 2012, p. 248).  Using these themes will lead the researcher to the second quantitative phase of the study, beginning with developing a rubric instrument to apply to social media activity of the college student leaders.

Stay Tuned for Stage Two!

For all content cited on this post, explore {here} for all references used on this blog.

*All images purchased from https://www.123rf.com

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Share this post!

You may also like...

Hybrid Hype in Higher Ed, Is your campus ready?

Hybrid Hype in Higher Ed – Is your campus ready?

A hybrid campus is not attempting business as usual while adding online options. It is completely redefining and reshaping what is the campus experience.

Read More »

Building Online Community for College Students

Building Online Community for College Students Connection is more important than ever. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, what will become your campus digital living room or quad? Beyond the classroom, where will our students find each other to laugh, lead, and just be? How can student engagement professionals and social media professionals collaborate …

Read More »

Cultivating Faculty Partnerships: How Digital Marketers and Faculty Can Combine Forces

Josie Ahlquist, EdD, with Danielle Sewell, MFA “Marketing just makes me feel slimy.”  The faculty member who said this was a colleague I respected and the topic had come up during a committee meeting about campus-wide initiatives, including communications. She dropped it casually, with no intention of being malicious. It was just how she felt.  …

Read More »

Subscribe to my newsletter

For the latest on digital engagement and leadership and everywhere they intersect.

Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

Connect with Rebekah

Spark your mission on social media

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.