Using focus group methods to improve students’ design project research in schools: Drawing parallels from action research at undergraduate level

2006-07-05T17:30:03Z (GMT) by Howard G. Denton D.C. McDonagh
Focus groups are increasingly used in industry to elicit data on product users' less tangible needs and associated product symbolism . This can have a considerable impact on a product's subsequent sales and hence is commercially extremely valuable design research. This paper provides an overview of an action research project which placed both a designer and an undergraduate designer, rather than a market researcher in direct contact with users in focus groups. The aim of the work was two-fold: firstly to develop a protocol for a designer to manage focus groups effectively, and secondly to see if this experience could improve the designer’s ability to empathise with a range of users (socio-economic, culture, gender, age or abilities). In reporting the above, the paper also attempts to extrapolate the findings to a schools context; could focus group methods be used be used by students at a school level both as a vehicle for design research and as a learning tool? This paper provides a background to focus group methods, together with their advantages and limitations. The action research project is described and three case studies within it are outlined. The protocols developed are described. The final section of the paper looks at the degree to which this work could be extrapolated to schools level design work both in the United Kingdom and internationally.