Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Frank! look at running Focus Group with Kids

In our work with Diabetes UK we have run a number of Workshops/focus groups with kids. These are some of the things that I have learnt along the way. This is not an absolute guide but it hopefully provides some useful tips. Please note that the tips should be adjusted to be age appropriate.

1)      Create a trusting atmosphere where all the participants feel they can talk freely. With slightly older kids I talk about the ‘Chatham House rule’ where ‘comments are not attributed to speakers’ so people can talk freely. I also often suggest to the kids that we agree that ‘what is said in the room stays in the room’.

2)      Set some rules that all the kids agree to. These can include: don’t talk over each other, give every one who wants it the chance to speak, listen to what other people say and value what other people say.  Most importantly tell everyone one in the room that they cannot get a question wrong, that this is not a test.

3)      Treat every child in the room as an expert and treat them with respect, tell them why you are doing the research and its aims. Make them feel valued

4)      If you are holding the group in a school, you need to create an ‘out of school atmosphere’. Make the room feel more relaxed by providing drinks, snacks and maybe even adding a bit of background music (PRS licence permitting).

5)      Ideally provide some sort of thank you more to say ‘your opinion is valued’ than ‘we are paying for your opinion’.

6)      In terms of group sizes – generally for children 10 and under you really only want 4 to 6 kids. For older kids you can increase this to 8. Where possible do not mix ages within groups. We ran one with children between 5 and 10 it was mayhem, great fun but mayhem!

7)      In terms of timing you want to keep the session to under 45 mins for the under 10s and an under an hour for the over 10’s

8)      Make sure that you have parent or carer consent well before the start of the group.

9)      Where possible focus on activities rather than on talking – show things rather than try to explain them.  

10)   Some people suggest that you give children the option to express their opinion in private. I do not tend to do this, instead I make sure that all the kids are being heard throughout the session (often what their ‘opinion’ will directly contradict the views they have expressed during conversation) and we value this content as much as the final ‘vote’.

11)   For younger children I find you need to be more specific in what you ask so I concentrate on ‘tell me two things you like about this’, ‘tell me two things you don’t like about it’ rather than ‘do you like this’. Avoid ‘Why’ if possible replace it with ‘What’ ‘What do you like about…’  rather than ‘Why do you like…’

12)   One of the tips I have picked up from a website about focus group research with kids  is to ask ‘think back ….’  When you are asking ‘participants to reflect on their personal experiences.’. It has been an invaluable piece of advice.

13)   Use observation as much as conversation – ideally have one facilitator/help who can spend time observing reactions rather than running the group.

14)   Have fun and let the children know you are having fun too.

15)   Thank them – tell them how invaluable their insights have been.

To find out more about running focus groups with kids call Jo Weatherall on 01273 670100 or e-mail 

No comments: