Data collection and analysis for evaluation – reference guides for teachers

This reference guide was originally published 04 September 2019.

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Interviews and focus groups

Interviews and focus groups are guided discussions that explore people’s experiences, opinions, attitudes and motivations.

Interviewing people individually gives each participant an equal opportunity to have their say, in private.

Focus groups can be undertaken with as few as 2-3 people, and up to a maximum of 9-10 people. Most focus groups consist of 4-8 participants.

Interviews and focus groups enable you to:

  • take a personal approach, allowing participants to speak freely
  • explore complex situations
  • provide participants with additional information during conversations
  • ask follow-up questions and explore new lines of inquiry.

In evaluations, interviews and focus groups are often integrated with other approaches (such as surveys). This helps avoid solely drawing general conclusions based only on the views of a small number of people.


Surveys are collections of questions delivered to people that can be used to examine their experiences, opinions, attitudes and motivations. Surveys can contain a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions ask for a free-text response – anywhere from a few words to a full paragraph. Closed-ended questions ask respondents to choose from a limited number of predetermined responses.

Surveys enable you to:

  • efficiently collect consistent data from large or small groups of people
  • conduct simple analysis of patterns and trends
  • gather responses anonymously if you need to.

In evaluations, surveys are often integrated with other approaches (such as observations). This helps avoid solely relying on self-reported information.


Observations refer to an organised process for watching and recording ‘events’ that occur in a particular setting.

  • Common settings for observation in schools include learning spaces, playgrounds and meetings.
  • Events to observe could include what people are doing, how they are using their time, and how they are interacting with others and the space around them.
  • You can observe teaching and learning in your own classes by filming it and watching it back. Alternatively, you can ask other people to observe by inviting them to be in the room or giving them video footage to watch later.

Observations enable you to:

  • collect data about events that do not rely on memory or self-report
  • record information as it happens with minimal disturbance for the participants
  • examine relationships between people, activities, space and time.
Observations can be structured or unstructured, or contain a mix of both aspects.

Document analysis

A document analysis involves a process of systematically reviewing existing documents that are of relevance to your evaluation questions. This provides context to your research and enables you to:

  • collect and analyse data in an efficient way that minimises time, cost and disruption
  • step back in time and look at historical trends from a variety of events and settings
  • make use of documents that are already easily accessible - the type of documents will depend on what you are evaluating.
    • programming documents (for example, lesson plans and annotations, timetables)
    • correspondence
    • teaching resources (for example, worksheets, notes computer software)
    • newsletters and notes
    • units of work
    • research articles
    • policies (school-specific or from the department)
    • work samples
    • scope and sequence
    • social media posts
    • meeting minutes.

In evaluations, document analyses are often integrated with other approaches (such as interviews). This helps avoid drawing general conclusions based only on documents.