Post navigation

Undergraduate Student Focus Groups

Unfortunately, state budget reductions have eliminated funding for Undergraduate Student Focus Groups for the present.

In our interactions with the academic community at the University of Virginia through the Teaching Resource Center, we have found that students have thought a great deal about the teaching-learning process and have many valuable insights to offer.

As one way to foster an ongoing dialogue about teaching and learning between undergraduate students and faculty members and TAs, the TRC has established an ongoing series entitled “Undergraduate Student Focus Groups on Teaching and Learning.” Several times each semester, we invite a cross-section of 6-8 undergraduate students to meet at the TRC for pizza, drinks, and discussion of various aspects of teaching and learning, including the roles of students and teachers. Each group is comprised of different undergraduates and focuses on one topic, such as the following:

  • What makes the best teachers interesting?
  • What constitutes a good lecture?
  • What makes a discussion productive?
  • How would you describe an effective science lab?
  • When does the essay-writing and essay-grading process work best?

Participants receive sample question(s) ahead of time, and one or two TRC facilitators orchestrate the discussion and note good suggestions, enlightening opinions, and thoughtful perspectives. TRC staff then disseminate students’ ideas to UVa faculty and TAs through future Teaching Concerns newsletter articles, TRC workshops, and, perhaps, Occasional Papers.

Focus Group Topics to Date (Articles originally appeared in Teaching Concerns)


  • Notes from the Undergrads
    • Rating the Evals
    • Student Study and Note-Taking Habits
  • How is technology used in our classrooms?
  • What makes an effective science/math course?


  • What Makes the Grade?
  • Acing the Exam
  • How do effective discussion sections work with lectures?
  • What makes an effective science/math course?
  • How is technology used in our classrooms


  • What Constitutes a Good Lecture?
  • What Makes a Discussion Section Productive?
  • How does the rest of your life help/hinder your academic performance
  • Formulae for Effective Lab Courses
  • What are the biggest obstacles to promoting intellectual community?


  • Why Are We Here? Expectations of University life and learning For First-Year Students
  • ‘On the Uses of a Liberal Education’: A Discussion of the Issues
  • Diversity in the Classroom
  • What Constitutes a Good Lecture?
  • Choosing a Major
  • What Makes a Discussion Productive?


  • Hoo’s in Class? Motivation for Attendance and Preparation
  • Students’ Ideas about Diversity in the Classroom
  • Formulae for Effective Lab Courses
  • Technology in the Classroom of the 90s