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FIGs: Focused Inquiry Groups

What is a FIG?

In FIGs (Focused Inquiry Groups), small groups of staff and faculty conduct focused research in order to improve teaching, student services, and student success at BCC. They consider outside research in effective practices, gather information directly from our students or other relevant community members (surveys, focus groups, assessment of student work, etc.), and recommend actions to improve student outcomes.

What are the goals of the FIG project?

  • Create a culture of collaboration
  • Strengthen teaching and student services through inquiry and research
  • Improve staff and faculty understanding of student learning
  • Document the findings to plan future workshops and projects

What exactly do people do in a FIG?

  • Develop a critical question, e.g.
    • How can we make initial Assessment/Orientation better fit student needs?
    • Why do students struggle so much with word problems in math, and what can we do about it?
    • How can we best use X technological advance in X discipline to improve student learning?
    • What are the necessary components of effective contextualized courses/sustainable learning communities, mentoring programs, etc.?
    • What do students in  transfer class X who took the previous pre-transfer preparation class Y wish we had taught them in class Y?
    • What best practices in group work should we apply in X discipline?
    • How can we best use fillable online forms to reduce workload and improve communication between service areas?
    • How can writing across the curriculum improve student outcomes in STEM classes?
  • Find a few sources of existing data relevant to your topic (e.g. district data on retention/success etc., published studies, examples of how other schools or other parts of our school are addressing your issue )
  • Gather data from students or other relevant people (e.g. surveys, interviews, focus groups, student work)
  • Look at collected & published data & make recommendations/identify paths for future research
  • Present findings:
    • Brief written report with specific recommendations and supporting data to be posted on the TLC website
    • Brief presentation to other groups

What are the required activities for team members?

  • Each person submit their own time sheet (returned via campus mail) to Dylan Eret (I’ll give them to your project leader when your project is accepted)
  • Meet at least 4 times over the year to complete all parts of the project together:

1. Schedule  an initial meeting – please invite the TLC coordinator – where you will refine your question, develop a research plan, and take a look at previously published research on the issue

2. Participate in the TLC Symposium in May 2018 where you will present your project and receive feedback from other audience members

3. Meet at least 2 other times whenever works for your group, to discuss existing data, plan and conduct research, evaluate the findings, and make recommendations. 

What else does the leader need to do?

  • Ensure that the project is moving along on schedule
  • Ensure that all team members are included in the collaboration
  • Maintain contact with TLC coordinator and ask for support when needed
  • Submit communications on time to Dylan Eret, TLC Coordinator, at


  • Friday, December 1: please send email update #1: 
    • refined question 
    • secondary sources (what does the research say about effective practices in your topic area, and what are other schools doing that works?)
    • research plan (what will you do to collect information from students?)
  • March 2018: please send email update #2
    • key findings 
    • preliminary analysis
  • May 2018: Inquiry to Action Symposium
  • May 2018: please send by email final documents to include
    • a brief final report
    • a digital presentation (the one you showed at the symposium)
    • your research data (survey results, statistics, focus group notes, link to vimeo, etc. as appropriate)
    • at least 2 links to existing research (e.g. articles, studies, district data reports) we can add to the TLC digital resource library

How much time will this take?

Estimated total time input is about 10+ hours for FIG project leaders and participants. While we appreciate enthusiastic participants who do thorough inquiry, FIG projects are intended to be small enough to complete in a few months with a few meetings and a few hours of outside work. They should inform and improve your teaching or other work experience, not interfere with it.

What about pay?

A number of stipends are available for FIGs and APPLEs this year through Professional Development funds and various grants. Participants that are approved will receive a stipend of $400, paid by the end of each semester, after the final reports are received. Priority for stipends will be determined by the TLC Advisory Board according to these criteria:

  1. people working on projects that clearly meet the objectives of the criteria below
  2. part-time faculty and classified staff have priority for stipends over contract faculty
  3. new participants in TLC Collaborative Projects
  4. new participants in FIGs/APPLEs

Please note that you are welcome to run a FIG or APPLE even if we run out of stipend allocations. Also, some projects might have a small core group of 2 or 3 people doing most of the work who request stipends, but others may participate in a focus group, pass out surveys, etc. without committing much time or requesting compensation. All community members are invited to the TLC Symposium.

Who should apply for a FIG?

Everyone! Although priority will be given to projects that explicitly focus on working with students who need basic skills for college, all instructors and classified staff – and thus all students – can benefit from this kind of collaboration.

 What are the criteria for selection?

  • The inquiry question is focused (click here for more details on how to develop a strong inquiry question)
  • The inquiry focuses on at least one of the following areas:
    • Instructional design and applied learning
    • Student engagement
    • Basic skills students and/or instruction
    • Retention, persistence, equity, and success of all students
    • Student equity: Supports student completion and success
    • Outcomes assessment and/or “closing the loop”
    • Radical educational models or forms of inquiry that push the boundaries of learning and pedagogy
  • The proposal exhibits a sense of urgency, passion, and interest in the issue
  • The inquiry leads faculty and staff to gather meaningful information from students to better understand their learning and experiences
  • The inquiry should forge new ground rather than merely substantiating claims or research already documented
  • [If applicable] Teams should be inclusive or inter-disciplinary


  • Teaching and Learning Center

    Saturday 20 October 2018


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