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Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

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 and can facilitate focus groups as a neutral third party. ACE offers multiple focus group formats, each developed for specific contexts; contact us for additional information. 

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OverviewQuick GuideACE - WSUStudent Focus Groups for Program Assessment: Guidelines for ProgramsPDF resource with focus group guidelines for programs
SamplingQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Sample Sizes, Sampling, & Representation for Program AssessmentPDF resource offering sampling strategies and tips for determining sampling size and representation with examples
Data StewardshipQuick GuideACE - WSUAssessment Data Stewardship: Tips for Academic ProgramsPDF resource with data stewardship tips for those collecting and managing degree 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. Available at: