Evaluation resources – Focus groups

This guide supports school planning and the evaluation of Strategic Improvement Plans (SIP) initiatives and implementation and progress monitoring (IPM) for curriculum implementation. The resource provides guided advice to schools on how to conduct a focus group, including a suggested planning and collation template that can be contextualised to meet individual school needs.

What and why

A focus group:

  • is a guided discussion and a useful way to elicit qualitative perceptual data about people’s thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences.
  • can be conducted with students, teachers, staff, parents and carers.
  • usually involves groups of 2 to 10 people, however, is typically groups of 4 to 8.

Focus groups enable:

  • the capturing of voices and perspectives of a range of stakeholders about a given topic, experience or evaluation focus.
  • a large amount of data to be collected, rich in context and stories.
  • the exploration of complex issues or follow up related to an evaluation focus, question or inquiry.

A focus group is useful to:

  • hear participants describe their personal perspectives and opinions or experiences in their own words
  • gain contextual information about the ‘what, how and why’, providing insight on quantitative data sources (for example: explanation of staff attendance at curriculum implementation professional learning meetings, engagement with procedural documents such as processes for developing school-based assessments for review by school leaders, prior to implementation)
  • follow up on information provided from surveys, allowing the exploration of themes or patterns from survey analysis.
  • Interviews and focus groups are often integrated with other approaches (such as surveys). This helps avoid drawing general conclusions based on the views of a small number of people
  • Focus groups rely on responses from participant’s memory and willingness to speak on the inquiry or evaluation topic. Reassuring participants to share their views openly, and informing participants how their responses will be used, helps to avoid social desirability bias (the desire not to say the wrong thing)
  • Using other forms of data to confirm or refute the findings from a focus group is recommended, as focus groups usually yield self-report data
  • Focus groups can be time consuming, planning key questions that are aligned to the evaluation focus and establishing clear and succinct recording and analysing processes is worthwhile in the planning phase
  • The facilitator plays an important role. They should try to:
    • make participants feel comfortable
    • listen for meaning
    • maintain neutrality and avoid leading participants or influencing responses (researcher bias).
    • avoid making generalisations based on views of a small sample.

Focus group – checklist and template

This checklist (DOCX 96.3 KB) is designed to assist schools with a process to consistently plan and implement a focus group to evaluate curriculum implementation initiatives. The template (DOCX 94.9 KB) provides a scaffold for schools to undertake a focus group.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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