Saturday, May 20, 2017

Week 22 - Collecting Data and Evidence

Evidence and Data
The distinction between evidence and data is one that is very clear in disciplines such as medicine, where information about individuals is data, while data that is aggregated and analysed, is evidence.
Evidence, rather than data, is then used as the basis for decisions, since it is data being used to support a conclusion. While less empirical, educational research might also recognise this distinction. One student's grades, or one interview with a colleague, are data. The grades of a whole class, or a group of interviews, are evidence, once suitably analysed.

Collecting Data and Evidence
The success of your inquiry project relies on your ability to collect data and evidence in order to determine the impact or influence your project is having. Data and evidence can take many forms, however, one of the defining features of collecting evidence in an inquiry project is that data collection is planned and systematic. Earl and Timperley (2015) suggest that "evidence must be fit-for-purpose, of sufficient quality to form an accurate representation of the situation being evaluated and be available when decisions are being made.’ (p. 24).
There are a myriad of methods that can be used to collect data and evidence. Some possible methods include:
Document analysis (this may include examples of students’ work)
Focus groups and/or interviews
Student assessment data (this could include both formative and summative assessment).
Pre and post test data (this could be used if you are developing an intervention designed specifically to raise student achievement in a particular area, e.g. spelling or mathematics. You could give students a pre test to ascertain their current level and then give them a similar or the same test after the intervention to determine whether there has been improvement)
Students’ just-in-time responses using digital technologies and postings on social media
Classroom (or other locations) observations

Using self-report measuresIt is likely that at least some of the evidence you collect will be based on self-report measures (that is participants – i.e. students, teachers, whanau – providing their point of view). Easton (2012) provides a brief introduction to self-report methods, and also covers some basic ideas around action research and the value of engaging your own students in research. If you want to get more detail about designing interviews or questionnaires, then take a look at Chapter 6 of Barker, Pistrang and Elliott (2002). Both of these resources appear in this week's media.

Some key data gathering methods
Interviews:Interviews can take a variety of forms. They can be structured, meaning they follow a set of pre-determined questions and do not deviate from these. They can be unstructured, which means that you do not establish any questions before the interview. The final form of interviews is semi-structured, where you create an interview schedule but you can deviate from it to follow up any interesting points that the interviewee might raise.
Something to think about when creating an interview schedule (the questions you will be asking) is whether you ask open or closed questions. Open questions are going to provide you with potentially much deeper and more detailed information.
Surveys:There are several things to consider when designing a survey. The first is the form that the questions will take. Do you want to use short answer questions, long answer questions, yes/no questions or a Likert scale (where participants rank their responses on a scale, for example from 1 to 5). Each type of question will provide different types of data.
You also need to think about the length of your survey. You don’t want it to be too long, as participants will lose focus. However, at the same time you want to make sure that you collect all the information that you will need. Try to think about what information you are trying to gain from your survey and what questions you need to ask in order to get this information.
Also think about your mode of surveying. Do you want to use an online survey builder or do you want people to complete the survey by hand? The benefit of an online survey is that the programme will collate the data for you. However, the online format may make it harder for some participants to access it.
Observations: You might want to conduct observations of your students (or possibly other staff members or community groups) as part of your data collection. Before you start your observation it can often help if you think of some questions or topic areas that will help to structure or guide you and remind you of things to focus on or think about. You also need to think about how you will record your observations. Do you want to be taking notes or videoing students while you are observing them? Or do you want to do the observations and then write up your thoughts afterwards? Do you need to collect any artefacts (for example students’ work) as part of your observation?

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