In this stage of the assessment
process, information is gathered to address the assessment questions. Although the
assessment questions drive the selection of data collection techniques, there are a number
of factors to consider.
- What information needs to be collected?
- The information that needs to be collected is delineated by the
- What are the information sources? (target audiences)
- People (e.g., student participants – current, past, withdrawn,
perspective; support staff – tutors, counselors; program staff; faculty; parents;
- How much information should be collected?
- Entire population
- Sample of the population
- How should the information be collected? (methodology)
- Survey (paper, web-based, scan form)
- Focus group
- Interviews (face-to-face, telephone)
- Observations (e.g., events, behaviors, level of engagement)
- Document analysis (e.g., program documents, activity logs,
- Record analysis (e.g., university student record system,
- Testing (pre-test, post-test)
- Literature review
- Other existing data sources (e.g., retention data,
institutional survey data)
Some assessment questions are best addressed by using a variety of
data collection techniques. For example, a survey may be administered to gather information
from a large number of people, with follow-up interviews or focus groups conducted with
certain respondents to obtain more in-depth information. Using several different information
sources helps to substantiate the findings. For instance, if exploring a tutoring program, a
data collection strategy may include a survey and/or focus groups with students, a survey
and/or interviews with tutors, and a record analysis of students’ attendance behaviors.
Triangulation, or using multiple data gathering strategies from several sources, helps to
more completely explore the assessment questions.
Although the assessment questions drive the methodology, the
practicality of the approach must also be taken into consideration. Time, cost, and scope of
the assessment should be considered. The amount of time needed to develop the data
collection instruments (e.g., survey, focus group protocol, document analysis guidelines),
gather the information (e.g., distribute the survey, conduct the focus groups, review
documents), and analyze the data must realistically reflect the timetable of the
program/project staff and administrators. Budgetary resources must be compatible with the
cost of the assessment. The scope or magnitude of the assessment is often dependent on time
and budget. For example, if a methodology includes interviewing twenty participants, but
financial resources are limited and a short timeline exists, the practicality of the
approach comes into question.