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Nominal Group Technique

March 1, 2012 3 comments

I attended an ELESIG webinar on Student Engagement Methods: a focus on the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) on 29 February 2012. The session focused on how this technique could be used to elicit feedback from students (or staff) on their experiences of learning technology or for them to give feedback on their learning. This technique encourages active engagement and the webinar explored how the technique works in a face-to-face environment.

Background

NGT is a structured face-to-face technique which was originally developed in the 1970s as a technique for making decisions in large groups. The term Nominal Group arises from the fact that the activity is a group only in name as it relies on individual contributions in a group environment. (O’ Neil and Jackson 1983, cited in Varga-Atkins et al. 2011)

NGT Structure

In an NGT activity, the facilitator introduces the structure and purpose of the activity to participants (staff or students). The question that participants need to answer must be focused and easily understood. (Varga-Atkins et al., 2011) The recommended number of participants for an NGT activity is 8-10 participants, but if you have multiple facilitators you can run a number of groups on the same topic.

Varga-Atkins et al. (2011) have outlined the stages of the activity as follows:

Post-its

Kakachu (2008) Post-its CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Stage 1: Individual responses to a single question are written on a series of post-its in silence. The facilitator leads a round robin of the group as each participants reads out their response and the facilitator places the post-its on a whiteboard and numbers them.  If NGT participants are providing multiple responses then the round robin continues until all response are read out.

Stage 2: Clarification can be asked for by group participants at this stage. Responses are consolidated into themes by the group.

Stage 3: Each individual ranks their top 5 responses. The facilitator then calculates the ranking results and shares with the group.

Mock NGT

To demonstrate the technique in action the webinar facilitators got all participants to respond to a question using the online whiteboard. This technique didn’t quite work in an online environment as you could see others responses while you were formulating your own ideas. It also proved difficult to complete the ranking stage on a whiteboard.

Benefits

The webinar participants outlined the following benefits for NGT participants:

  • Everyone has an opportunity to input a response
  • The technique provides for a wide breadth of responses
  • The technique can generate a large volume of data in a short amount of time
  • The structure of the technique helps to moderate group dynamics
  • The technique can promote a sense of ownership for participants
  • Students have said that they enjoy this method of providing feedback as it avoids survey fatigue

The webinar participants outlined the following benefits for facilitators:

  • Ensures quiet participants take part
  • Provides for an immediate response

Challenges

The webinar participants outlined the following challenges for NGT participants:

  • Consensus can be interpreted in a variety of ways
  • Grouping the ideas can be subjective
  • Participants might be too shy to ask for clarification
  • The process needs time to be explained. The webinar facilitators suggested sending a  reminder email about process and task to participants ahead of the activity
  • Participants may feel under pressure to perform in public
  • The activity is fast paced and participants have to stay alert

The final report generated from the NGT activity can be circulated and then sent to participants for further clarification.

When is the NGT useful?

Varga-Atkins et al. (2011 p. 5) have summarised when the technique is useful in different research and evaluation contexts:

Research Purpose For evaluation and decision making
Topic When you have one topic to explore
Likely research questions What changes might you make to your programme/curriculum?
Participants Participants with different power relations within the same group.

I’d be interested in finding out from your comments if you think this might be a useful technique to elicit student feedback on their experience of using learning technology and/or to get feedback on their learning.

References:

Varga-Atkins, T., with contributions from Bunyan, N; McIsaac, J; Fewtrell J. (2011) The Nominal Group Technique: a practical guide for facilitators. Written for the ELESIG Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. October. Version 1.0 [online] Available from: http://www.slideshare.net/tundeva/the-nominal-group-technique-a-practical-guide-for-facilitators (Accessed: 29.2.12)

Effective Learning in the Digital Age

ELESIG ran an event a few months back which reported on a number of projects at Institutions around the UK, that included the student experience at the heart. As I am an ELESIG online facilitator, I attended to gain an insight into the work being undertaken on digital literacies across the country.

Here is a quick recap! The main session for the day reported on the SLIDA project which is a study of how institutions are supporting effective learners in a digital age.  This study also asks institutions about the type of research that has been undertaken. 43 institutions applied and only 10 institutions were selected as this was about developing a variety of case studies. It was quite a lengthy process in finding data from institutions! It was about a co-creation with institutions because the institutions didn’t always want to present in relation to the student experience of elearning.

Three case studies

How is a student enterprise preparing learners for a digital age a Surrey experience

Chris, a final year economics student presented the project Colab an initiative run by SCEPTRE.  Chris talked about how colab has been really useful to develop students commercialisation skills and has turned into a Business for the students. Initially Norman Jackson came up with an idea to develop students enterprise skills and asked some students to help with getting staff to use youtube videos. This then escalated and students from this group started to develop apps for staff in departments etc. This isn’t a curriculum based example but a student driven example. There were about 70 students recruited in the initiative but a range of students attended digital workshops held by colab. This initiative has helped develop professional and lifelong learning skills. Surrey already has enterprise initiatives. All the collab guys are in employment for eg one person got a job through google! CoLab includes a dedicated team of students who as part of their placement year provide staff development workshops, provide technology services for hosting in house and external conferences and respond to emerging technology demands in the university. An execllent initiative to help students develop professional skills!

How do research-informed approaches to learning & teaching support and develop learners in technology-rich environments? Student experience research at Oxford Brookes

Digital Literacy has been placed at the top of the policy agenda at Oxford Brookes. The University’s new strategy for enhancing the student experience requires all undergraduate programmes to develop five graduate attributes one of which is digital & information literacy. To underpin this, a conceptual model is being used to help codify digital literacies at programme level.  Focused on student entitlements has been an enabler. The graduate attributes has helped steer the student experience for healthcare students. This is an example of linking digital literacies at a programme level.

How has the focus on ‘opportunities’ for students influences their experience @ Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton has also identified digital literacy as one of three key attributes and the UG Curriculum has been redesigned to ensure that these attributes are fully embedded within it. A blended learning approach to teaching & learning is core to the implementation of this strategy. The university’s extensive experience and research in blended learning and in the use of eportfolios provided evidence of the student experience at Wolverhampton and for the importance of digital literacy as one of the core attributes. A good example of local research at Wolverhampton which used an appreciative inquiry approach. Fab ikea style poster from student survey identified several themes; technology in learning, sense of belonging,  Social learning environment, Responsive lecturers, Interactive pedagogies, & Cultural diversity.

Really useful examples where there has been a range of initiatives that place the student at the heart of the experience.  This research is now going to be used by the institution to enhance strategies. The SLIDA section is available to view on JISC website.

Resources

Lexdis a JISC funded research project  is for those who are using or developing on-line learning materials. All the strategies have been provided by students who have first hand experience of e-learning. They have pulled together handy hints and tips on technologies you can use to make e-learning easier. Any technology that achieves this has been called an Assistive Technology.5 videos are available to view on the ELESIG Ning site

Synote – free automatic transcription for videos (must use)

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