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Applied Linguistics Review

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Focus group interaction in evaluation research

Hanbyul JungORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3347-3050
Published Online: 2017-04-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0023


As multiparty activities focus groups afford participants opportunities to interact with each other rather than only with the moderator. The methodological literature recommends focus groups for data generation precisely for these structural affordances, but few studies examine how the interaction in ongoing focus groups evolves. Consequently it remains largely obscure how focus groups produce disciplinary knowledge. Addressing this gap from the perspective of conversation analysis, the study examines focus group interaction as the participants’ joint accomplishment, with particular attention to the interactional practices that exhibit the participants’ orientation to the institutional activity and its agenda. The focus groups were conducted as part of a program evaluation study with Korean teachers of English who participated in a study-abroad teacher development program in the U.S. The analysis reveals how the participants contingently initiate activity and topic shifts in keeping with the institutional purpose and invoke their collective identity as an epistemic community as they jointly construct responses to the moderator’s questions. The conversation-analytic lens reveals how the focus groups generate profound, nuanced, and grounded knowledge about the program under evaluation from the perspective of the key stakeholders and by implication about the topical concerns for which the focus groups were conducted in the first place.

Keywords: focus groups; program evaluation; conversation analysis; interaction management; epistemic community


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-04-22

Published in Print: 2018-10-25

The focus group with Group A was only audio-recorded, resulting in limited transcription of participants’ gaze and gesture.

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 9, Issue 4, Pages 563–587, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0023.

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