Creative data collection


I love this activity where students posted ideas for how they’d use what they learned at three time points in the future. I’m always on the look out for activities like this that can double count as a learning/reflection activity AND as a potential evaluation data collection moment. What other creative data collection methods have you seen or used like this?

I think these methods have the potential to address at least two issues: 1) setting time aside for a survey or interview is hard for program providers and participants alike, and 2) participants often don’t get to see what others said or how what their experience fits into the broader picture.

Because I usually work in educational settings, opportunities like the one above are often already present in the learning activities planning by educators and program providers. We don’t always capture them as data-- and then we add a separate survey to get the same information. So I’m trying to improve my practice of looking for and creating opportunities to embed data collection directly into something they’re already doing and/or making these social or reflection opportunities as well.


Agree, think this is a great idea. I did one similar, in a botanical garden, with school groups doing programs. Educators asked them what they learned, and what they were still curious about, and they wrote on post-its for each one. Helped see what objectives got through, and what ways they could tweak programs to meet student curiosity. Educators still complained it took too long! But really it’s only 5 minutes at the end of class. The time is in entering all the info into a spreadsheet for analysis!


I have attended one workshop where the trainer asked us to write our main key points from the course on post it. What was different about this excercise, is that the trainer then asked us to go in front of participants and read our points out loud. It was nice different sort of sharing feedback with trainer and trainees


Great topic! One method that comes to mind is a carousel. For those not familiar, there are about 4 ‘stations’ set up around a room. Each ‘station’ has a large piece of flipchart paper with a question or topic on it. Participants are split into groups - 1 for each station. Groups get 1-2 minutes to respond to their topic/question be writing on the paper. Then, groups rotate stations. Now, they have 1-2 minutes to build on what the previous group has written on their paper. This repeats until each group have visited every station.

I was in a workshop once that used this to get people thinking about ethical issues between undergrads and class TAs (each station asked how we’d approach an ethical dilemma). It generated some good ideas and was also an ice-breaker. The workshop facilitator used the answers to spark group discussions after. I bet the method could help to frame future data collection too (e.g., focus group).

There’s a basic guide here (for grade school, but can be adapted):


Public Profit is doing a coffee break next week (May 30) on this topic. They also created a really nice pdf download which you can grab here:



I think the Carousel is the same as what we call Graffiti Stems-- I find it’s one of the most productive!


Thanks for posting this, what a great resource! It definitely overlaps with the Universal Methods of Design book I mentioned in the thread on summer reading.


I’ve been using some creative data collection as part of my interviewing approach, generally in the form of giving people things to interact with, like cards, props, images, maps, etc., as a way to generate different and deeper insights into the topic. So, for example, I recently had a series of interviews where we were inquiring about an array of different possible outcomes. I created a mini card deck with a card for each outcome and got the respondents to sort the outcomes into how important they were to them and which ones were most important. Then we used that as a launching point for a discussion about what the different outcomes meant to them and why they sorted and ranked them as they did. The point of this was NOT a quantitative ranking of what outcomes were important, though! (i.e., X% of people thought outcome A was the most important.) It’s not a great quantitative measure (and isn’t meant to be) because the conversations you have make it very clear that people are interpreting the meanings of the cards very differently and will even interpret the sorting and ranking tasks differently, so what you can infer and generalize from just counting how cards get sorted and ranked is minimal (not nothing, but minimal). But it’s an awesome qualitative approach! One person I interviewed got really into it and started building out her own theory of change with the cards. It was also really helpful in this project because the interview respondents were not fully fluent in English and we didn’t always have a translator available who spoke their first language (there were multiple first languages in this case), so adding translations to the cards and having more things they could read and interact with, rather than just having questions spoken at them, made the interview process more accessible for them.

I’ve learned about using these kinds of strategies from working with design researchers, who often include interactive and physical components in their research methods.