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Research Time
Methodology
Youth Values
(1996-1999)
InventingAdulthoods
(1999-2001)
Sample Maintenance
(2001-2002)
Youth Transitions
(2002-2006)

Focus Groups

 

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Statements
Observer notes face sheet
E.g. of observer note-taking
Guide to facilitators

Groundrules


The study’s group discussion method was an adaptation for research purposes of a game
used in training and personal and social education involving a values continuum (See Lenderyou, G. (1994) Sex education, values and morality, London: Health Education Authority). This provided a means for participants to ‘explore values and attitudes in a group and to enable participants to acknowledge similarities and differences in values’ (p.19). This method enabled researchers to observe group dynamics as well as generate opinion and discussion on relevant themes. Contentious statements were given to the group, who were asked to place themselves individually on a continuum
from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’, and then discuss together their views. Participants read out the statements in turn.

Focus groups were conducted in each of the research sites (62 in total, N=331). 56 Young people participated. Sessions were usually one hour long with between 4-6 participants. The group was seated in a circle either around a table or facing each other directly in a private room. Most were held in schools, although some took place in youth clubs and children’s homes. Two researchers were present, one facilitator and one observer. The facilitator sat in the circle with participants, their role being to keep time, to ensure that all members of the group made a contribution and to encourage interesting avenues of discussion. The note taker sat outside the circle, monitoring the audio cassette tape recorder, making a seating plan and taking detailed notes to enable the identification of speakers during the transcription of tapes. Each session began with introductions followed by an explanation of the note taker’s role, negotiation of tape recording, agreement of ground rules, and clarification of the meaning of confidentiality and anonymity. Ground rules were stuck to a wall in the room and were as follows:

 

* listen to each others views
* no interrupting
* treat each other with respect
* treat all personal statements as confidential

 

A set of statements was used as a vehicle for introducing ideas and opinions that might be relatively taboo, or difficult to introduce in normal conversation. These statements were strong assertions of particular opinions and values and structured in such a way that it would be easy for participants to disagree with them. They were generated through the identification of dilemmas collected through the questionnaire and of issues with particular salience in local areas through the pilot focus groups. Statements were printed and pasted onto coloured card. Although a core of statements were used in each research site (to facilitate comparisons), statements were also ‘made to measure’ to reflect and capture local issues.

A large sheet of flip chart paper was placed on the floor or on the table in the middle of the circle with five lines representing values continuum as follows:

 

strongly agree / strongly disagree
1 <----------------------------------------------->
2 <----------------------------------------------->
3 <----------------------------------------------->
4 <----------------------------------------------->
5 <----------------------------------------------->

 

Each member of the group was then given a set of ‘post-it’ stickers numbered according
to their place in the seating plan. Each was invited to pick and read aloud a statement from the statement ‘pack’. After each statement reading, participants were asked to think about their own response, and before talking, to stick a post-it onto the first line of the values continuum, towards the left if they agreed, towards the right if they disagreed and in the middle if they were unsure / had a mixed view. [It was sometimes necessary to clarify that participants could stick their post-its on top of each another participant’s if they shared the same view].

When all participants had stuck their post-it onto the first line, the facilitator invited each to explain their view and their position. In most cases participants engaged each other directly in debate. Approximately 5-7 statements were used in each one hour session, with each participant ideally having a turn to read. The last five - ten minutes of the session was used to wind the group up. Each participant was invited to contribute one thing that they liked about the session and one thing that they did not like. The ground
rules were reiterated as were assurances of confidentiality and anonymity

The entire session was recorded on audio cassettes and coded on NUD*IST. The observer also made notes on group dynamics and interactions. Fieldnotes (link to res. tool) gave brief descriptions of each participant and recorded results for each statement discusses by the group.

 

Youth Values

Year

1996

1997

1998

1999

Tools

Preliminary Focus Groups

Focus Groups

Questionnaire

Focus Group Analysis

Questionnaire Analysis

Assignments and Analysis

Interview Analysis

Classwork and Analysis