what they are, why they are useful, how to conduct them
Translated by Cinzia Billa
The new Erasmus Plus project “I TEACH WELL” (2021-1-FR01-KA220-SCH-000032680) started last year. Let us briefly recall the purpose of the project, the partners and the objectives :
The main aim is to support teachers in facing the new challenges offered by the rapid digital transformation, enabling them to react to technological stress and maintain their well-being.
- Elidea Psychologi Associati – ITALY
- ADI – Association of Italian School Teachers and Managers – ITALY
- Ecole d’enseignement superieur prive i.C.N. – FRANCE
- Haikara – SPAIN
- Institute for progressive education association- BULGARIA
- 90 SU “Gen. Hose de San Martin” – BULGARIA
- Centro de estudios AEG-ARROKA, S.L. – SPAIN
- Saulkrastu vidusskola – LATVIA
1) To design, develop, test and implement support tools to enable teachers to cope with the new challenges arising from rapid digital transformation;
2) To improve teachers’ response to technostress, providing them with tools to effectively manage the ongoing transition from traditional to online teaching;
3) Increase the capacity of schools and educational institutions to manage the digital transition in order to promote high quality teaching;
4) Create a platform where teachers from all over Europe can share knowledge and good practices.
Let us now analyse how focus groups will be used within the project, first of all what is a focus group ?
It is a methodology for collecting data through a free discussion between participants mediated by an interviewer that lasts an average of one and a half to two hours.
It is a methodology developed by the American sociologist Robert Merton during World War II to assess soldiers’ mood
The focus group responds to precise shared rules:
1) Respect for the other (avoid phrases such as “You don’t understand” or “What are you saying”)
2) Active listening
3) Avoid overlapping
4) Provide ‘representative’ examples
There are two needs to keep in mind, as far as the interviewer is concerned:
1.Create groups of 6/8 people where everyone is involved in the discussion or debate. This can be partially achieved by addressing questions to individual members. The technique consists of redirecting a question from an active group member to those less inclined to answer directly. Care must be taken as some people may find it very stressful to talk in the presence of others and may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. The quieter members of the group should be encouraged, but not forced to participate.
2. Prevent from expressing personal viewpoints, beliefs, etc. We call this behaviour ‘neutral attitude’. A neutral attitude must therefore be maintained. Participants should not be influenced by the interviewer’s facial expressions or comments.
The information to be obtained through focus groups, in our case, is:
1) The main problems encountered in dealing with technology at school, the characteristics of the school (relationships between colleagues and the methodology of sharing information);
2) The main benefits that teachers could benefit from using technology and the resources available to deal with techno-stress;
3) Information regarding the most effective type of training for teachers in terms of topics, methodology and tools;
In order to obtain this type of information, you can ask questions such as those listed below:
1) How is information shared in your school?
2) Are there any informal or formal ‘helping’ relationships in your school?
3) Does your school offer e-skills training?
4) What are the main difficulties you encounter during online lessons?
5) What problems do you encounter with your students during online lessons?
How can we discover the opportunities offered by technology? Consider this series of questions:
1) What are the main advantages of technology that you have discovered during your online experience?
2) What are, in your experience, the main advantages for students?
3) What resources could help you cope better with your technology difficulties? (school resources, teachers’ mutual support, students’ skills)
It is essential to listen to the voice of the teachers in order to organise a successful training. It is necessary to ask them what they think is the best duration, resources, etc.
1) How long do you think a course should last?
2) Would you prefer ‘progressive’ or episodic training?
3) What tools would be best to use for training?
Finally, let us remember ‘etiquette’ to follow during online focus groups and the things to pay attention to
1) Only activate the microphone when speaking
2) Keep the webcam switched on
3) Be careful when writing in chat you may write to all participants or only to some
4) Reserve yourself for speaking with the tools provided (show of hands, etc.)
For the interviewer :
1) It is better to take notes by hand, keyboard noise can be disturbing
2) Speak loudly to make sure everyone can hear
3) Do not eat during the focus group
4) Pay close attention to body language, sit up straight, do not stare, do not answer emails or mobile phones
If you would like to participate in the project focus groups, please write to: email@example.com
Participation will be recognised by an ADi certificate valid for professional training purposes