Focus Groups

For program-level assessment, focus groups offer a way to gather feedback from students about their experiences, motivation, and perspectives about aspects of their educational experience, skills, or knowledge, revealing the “how” or “why” of student behavior and thinking. In this way, focus groups can provide insight into the ways a curriculum can be most effectively designed to support student learning. Examples of different purposes for focus groups might include:

  • Asking a group of seniors nearing graduation about their experience in the major, such as students’ perceptions of how well pre-requisites prepared them for learning in later classes
  • Assessing the experience of the first student cohort in a new curriculum when they are mid-way through the curriculum, so that adjustments can be made
  • Responding to results from other assessment measures, to add depth of understanding to other data

Focus Groups Toolkit

The resources below are intended to help departments and programs considering focus groups for assessing student learning as part of program-level assessment. ACE is available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs to develop focus groups that include questions about student learning outcomes for program-level assessment, and can facilitate those focus groups as a neutral third party; contact us for additional information. 

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OverviewQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Focus Groups for Program Assessment (PDF)Resource intended to help WSU programs and faculty consider good practices for designing focus groups for program-level assessment
SamplingQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Sampling, Sample Sizes, and Representation (PDF)Resource intended to help WSU programs and faculty consider good practices for considering sample sizes and strategies for program-level assessment
Data StewardshipQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Assessment Data Stewardship for Academic Programs (PDF)Resource intended to help WSU programs and faculty consider good practices for collecting, managing, and using program assessment data that align with WSU’s Executive Policy #8

Additional Resources and Scholarship


Note: Please contact ACE to borrow a book.

Krueger, R. & Casey, M. (2009). Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Suskie, L. (2018). Chapter 20: Other assessment tools. In Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Suskie, L. Blog posts categorized ‘How to Assess’, A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education Blog.