Monday, September 17, 2007

Journal Review #4: focus groups and program evaluation

Stitt, B. G., Leone, M., & Jennings-Clawson, H. (1998). Focus groups and evaluation of criminal justice programs. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 9, 71-80. Retrieved September 30, 2006, from

In recent years, higher education was under attack from the stakeholders demanding documentation of accountability. The assessment for producing empirical evidence of accountability was becoming of significant importance. In the light of this increasing demand, the authors came up with an innovative idea for use in evaluating criminal justice programs.

After summarizing some concerns related to the measurement of accountability and the program review process, the authors introduced and discussed the use of focus groups as an assessment tool. The advantages and disadvantages of focus groups as applied to evaluation of criminal justice programs were presented. The authors conducted a self-studying involving focus group while the department was undergoing an external program review. A number of the focus groups’ suggestions for program change were supported by the findings of the criminal justice educators who visited the campus and evaluated the program; thus, the reviewers’ suggestions were supported by students’ observations and opinions. This validation has proved extemely valuable, especially in increasing resources for the criminal justice program.

Based on the findings of the study, the authors concluded that focus groups could be a valuable, viable, cost-effective tool in program evaluation. Therefore, they strongly suggested that many academic departments should use the focus group method in their evaluation processes.

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