Interactive theatre techniques and focus groups for children : the advantages of playful participation


Conducting focus groups with children may be a useful strategy for the development of health care interventions, particularly those involving visual media such as health games. However, these groups can be challenging given a child's attention span and the constraints of their developmental needs. The use of interactive theatre techniques is a relatively novel development in focus group methodology that may be well suited for focus groups involving children. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the use of interactive theatre techniques as part of a program of research being conducted to develop an intervention to delay initiation of intercourse in middle school girls. The study design included both qualitative and quantitative methods. Data sources include: (a) videotape and participant observation notes from two focus groups (one somewhat higher in acculturation, one somewhat lower in acculturation) conducted with Latina middle schoolers (n = 15), and (b) interviews with the Principal Investigator (PI) on the larger study and the Director of the Interactive Performance Lab (IPL) who facilitated the focus groups. Videotape data were coded for positive affect and anxiety as indicated by nonverbal behaviors (forward lean, fidgeting. Interview data were content analyzed. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize coding data and responses to the study demographic questionnaire used to measure age, country of birth, and grade level. The effects of group differences in acculturation on non-verbal behavior were examined with chi-square and t-test. Results indicated a positive response to the experience: (1) members of both focus groups spontaneously expressed positive thoughts about the experience and asked to do another focus group; (2) forward leaning and participation increased over time in both groups. Field notes indicated that the more acculturated group (as indicated by place of birth) disclosed more sensitive information. This group also exhibited significantly more forward leaning (p < .01). However, the two groups did not differ significantly in mean participation (p = .44) and both showed large amounts of participation. Useful information, both context (i.e., scene setting information), and content (i.e, what should happen in the scene) were identified in the focus groups. Analysis of interviews with the Pl and the Director of the IPL indicated that each looked for different things in the data and had different perspectives regarding the "next steps" in the research process. Study findings support the use of interactive theatre techniques in focus groups involving children and argue for an interdisciplinary approach in which a nurse researcher pairs with an expert in theatre and improvisational techniques. Additional implications for research include the importance of having a debriefing period and using participation as an indicator of engagement.


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Thesis Completion





Norris, Anne E.


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)


College of Nursing

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Nursing;Nursing -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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