THE USE OF FOCUS GROUPS IN RECRUITMENT, ADVISEMENT, AND RETENTION.

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1 THE USE OF FOCUS GROUPS IN RECRUITMENT, ADVISEMENT, AND RETENTION. James Anderson Divisional Advisor Human Services Division Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Lisa Dillon Division Head- Human Services Division Oklahoma State university-oklahoma City

2 OUTCOMES FOR TODAY S WORKSHOP Communicate a working knowledge of focus groups. Communicate how focus groups are applied in the Human Services Division at OSU-OKC. Provide examples of what we have learned in focus groups. Provide examples of focus group questions asked. Provide examples of how we have applied what we learned. Discuss some of the lessons we have learned in the process. Discuss how we intend to apply those lessons and our next steps.

3 FOCUS GROUPS Planned discussions among small groups of participants who are asked a series of carefully constructed questions about their beliefs, attitudes, and experiences. (Allen, 2004) Previously prepared questions focused on the objectives of the assessment. Facilitator and note taker/reporter.

4 FOCUS GROUPS IN HUMAN SERVICES Targeted capstone courses in all degree programs. Adding focus groups to Introductory courses in all Human Services degree programs. Some programs (such as Emergency Medical Services) are targeting specific courses in the program in addition to Intro and Capstone. Can be deployed in a specific class by department head request in response to student complaints.

5 SAMPLE QUESTIONS INTRO COURSES What brought you to OSU-OKC and/or this degree program? What has worked well for you so far on campus? What has not worked well? What are the challenges you anticipate having being in college for the first time/again? Targeted questions: how has this course helped you (referring to the orientation equivalent course in the program)? What else could we have shared that we missed?

6 SAMPLE QUESTIONS - CAPSTONE What was the driving force that brought you to OSU-OKC? What kept you here at OSU-OKC? **What is the difference between those of you graduating and those who WERE in the program but who did not complete this degree? Do you believe your expectations for the program were met?

7 SAMPLE QUESTIONS - CAPSTONE How did you handle your enrollment and advisement while you were in this program? Have your instructors been approachable? Supportive of your success? How would your rate the academic department and their care of you? Did you use other campus services while here? (tutoring, financial aid, etc.)

8 SAMPLE QUESTIONS - CAPSTONE What constructive criticism do you have regarding your OSU-OKC experience? Do you feel the program prepared you for the Occupational Proficiency course?

9 THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED Relationships are VERY important to students. Lines of communication between students and campus personnel are important. Students often deal with hardships while in their program and overcome them. Degree completion is often a very significant accomplishment to our students. Students are very honest in their assessments. Faculty and Administration must be ready for what is said by students and embrace/give thoughtful consideration to that information, not ignore or explain it away.

10 THINGS WE HAVE APPLIED Being deliberate in developing our faculty-student relationships in live and on-line courses. Developed personalized degree audits and plans for students in paramedic course who were confused by curriculum changes. Conducting one-on-one advisement and degree planning in Early Care Orientation course at very beginning of a student s journey with OSU-OKC. Academic advisor taking opportunities to strengthen rapport building with students (roving office hours--- classroom visits). Tied Focus Group results to our program outcome assessment plan for each divisional degree.

11 THINGS WE HAVE APPLIED EMS changed their delivery of clinical work, how and when they are completed, etc. EMS course advisement and enrollment. Discussions with early care faculty on the importance of their relationships with students and its (+) impacting retention. Solid working relationship of Division advisor to program faculty and administration.

12 CHALLENGES WITH THE FOCUS GROUP PROCESS It s subjective whether A student s opinion is true of the whole and that must be considered when contemplating change. Process is very time consuming, conducting groups, preparing response summaries for department, etc. Needs to be lead by someone other than the program faculty/administration to get accurate and honest feedback. Sharing constructive criticism students have of other units on campus without offending.

13 POSITIVES OF THE FOCUS GROUP PROCESS We receive authentic data, direct from the source. It imparts program ownership to students. It strengthens the relationship of the Institution with students. We receive more in-depth information than we would via written surveys.

14 REFERENCE Allen, Mary J. (2004). Assessing academic programs in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

15 CONTACT James Anderson OSU-OKC Human Services Division Lisa Dillon OSU-OKC Human Services Division

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