Resources for Organizing Focus Groups

Resources for Organizing Focus Groups

Once you gathered a focus group together, it can be helpful to frame the discussion with goals, an opening statement, and some principles of engagement. Here are some general suggestions that may be helpful. 


  • To explore how students perceive the content and instructional materials used in our classes, and the instructional practices employed by faculty in this program in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion; 
  • To better understand what affects students' sense of belonging in our program; and 
  • To learn about students’ experiences with discrimination, harassment, and bias in our program.  

Opening Statement:   

  • “There are no right or wrong answers but rather differing points of view.” 
  • “Please share your point of view even if it differs from what others have said.” 
  • “We are interested in constructive comments, even if they are critical.” 
  • “We’re recording the transcripts of this session because we don’t want to miss any comments.” 
  • “Please be assured of complete confidentiality. You may use pseudonyms to protect confidentiality.” 
  • “Today’s session will last about [specify time frame].”  

Principles of Engagement:  

  • participate actively 
  • speak one at a time 
  • treat everyone’s ideas with respect–don’t criticize 
  • minimize side conversations 
  • keep focused on the topic or question  

Examples of Questions

  • When do you feel respected and valued in your classes in the program?
  • Can you provide examples?
  • How safe do you feel sharing your opinions in classes in the program? 
  • How do you recognize a class environment is safe for you to share your opinions or ideas?
  • How well does the content you have been exposed to in the courses in the program (e.g., class readings, lectures, activities) represent different point of views and cultures? 
  • In the program, how well do your professors engage in classroom discussions regarding issues of diversity and power/privilege within your field of study? 
  • What are characteristics you see in your professors that help them lead these conversations successfully? 
  • What are characteristics you see in your professors that usually lead to unsuccessful discussions? 
  • What is the most important thing your instructors in the program can do to support students of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, areas of scholarship, ability statuses, etc.? 
  • Are there ways the program/department could help every student feel welcomed and valued? 
  • What do you think it means to “welcome and embrace diversity of lived experience, identity and thought”? If possible, please give examples. 
  • What are actionable steps that the program/department can take to address these challenges? 
  • Are there any other experiences, comments, or suggestions that you would like to share today before we conclude our discussion?