Teaching and Learning Focus Group Skills: A Classroom Example Evaluating Map Design

Judy Olson, Lesha Broomes, Scott Drzyzga, Geoffrey Jiunn Der Duh, Lisa Dygert, Jill Halden, Amy Lobben, Alison Philpots, Ian Sims, Jennifer Ware



As a group learning experience in a graduate cartography course, a focus group study was performed of a recently-redesigned map of the Michigan State University campus. The learning process involved two parts. Part one was a 75-minute focus group discussion during regular class time with the instructor as the moderator, one student as the assistant and notetaker, and the other members of the class as the subjects. After instructions were given, everyone studied the map for a brief period and then discussed a set of issues focused on the design of the map. Discussion was orderly but lively and packed with relevant comments. Part two occurred at the next class session. Students discussed the experience, the results, the assigned readings on the method, and relevance of the method to other projects. A written report was then prepared for the producers of the map. Reactions to the learning experience were highly positive, and several participants have since used qualitative methods in other research. An actual study proved an effective means of learning the fundamentals of focus group research.


education; learning; map design

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