Therapy or training?
AQR’s Moderating Skills Workshop goes from strength to strength. This time round we offer three very different perspectives on the course. This perspective comes from Andrew Murphy of Metro (Associated Newspapers).
Having a predominantly quant-based client-side research background my personal experience with group moderation is limited, adopting the clients usual position on the other side of the one-way viewing mirror. My main motive for attending (personal development aside) was to better understand the position and pressures of moderators.
I found the content and structure well-pitched for delegates seeking knowledge and to be able to refine (or launch) their moderating skills. It provided a clear set of skills and techniques for any researcher, regardless of previous personal experience in qualitative research, to enable the smooth running of a focus group as well as techniques to identify when and why a group may not go to plan and resolution techniques to resuscitate a faltering group.
Materials from the course were excellent and all tutors were knowledgeable and offered useful, practical advice on group moderating for both the course material as well as real-life examples that myself and other delegates had experienced.
As a result, I am now aware that one of a moderators likely common pressures (aside from disruptive or non-engaging respondents) is an over-demanding, over-zealous client lurking behind them on the other side of the one-way viewing mirror. Perhaps guilty of such client traits myself, I now empathise with the simultaneous respondent and client pressures of a moderator.
I did not attend with a premeditated ambition of becoming a moderator, nor intend to masquerade as a client-side expert in qual at my next focus group viewing opportunity. My main aim (which became increasingly relevant across the two days) was to develop my knowledge and understanding of the techniques, skills and challenges involved in focus group moderation. Empathy (toward moderators) is what I set out to achieve and that is what I have come out with.
I would recommend it to any qual or quant researcher of an appropriate level of experience (i.e. not too senior). I found it enlightening and challenging on a personal level as well as extremely relevant and beneficial for future outsourced research projects from a client-side perspective.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, November 2008
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2008