I’ve worked with many expanded learning programs in many settings over the years, making me one of the luckier researchers out there. Too often, though, I see program staff dedicating a lot of time and effort to collecting data, and almost none to learning from it. What a bummer.
One reason why data goes in, but doesn’t come back out, is because teams have too few experiences with exploratory, low stakes, playful explorations of their data. Instead, data is used in a last-minute rush to get the grant report out the door, and who wants to spend lots of time reliving that?!
Fortunately, there are some great free resources teams can use to start exploring their data for the right reason – learning and growth!
One thing these resources have in common is that they use unexpected approaches to engage teams in thinking about data. That’s on purpose. Most traditional approaches to exploring data are designed by people who are very linear, very solitary learners. That’s not who works in out-of-school time! By making data analysis more exploratory and social, we’re tapping Into our colleagues’ strengths.
The Data Culture Project has a set of hands-on activities to help teams think through every stage of the evaluation process, starting with getting clear about what you want to collect data about in the first place, all the way through sharing findings. My favorite is the Data Sculpture activity.
Carolyn Camman, an evaluator based in Canada, recently created a coloring book for adults with questions teams can use to reflect on their data. You read that right: a coloring book about data! Carolyn made it a free download – take a few pages to your next staff meeting.
And of course, my personal favorite, Dabbling in the Data. This guide has detailed instructions for 15 of my team’s time-tested ways to get teams thinking about data. The methods range from very simple to more complex and can be applied to almost any kind of data you have. If you use any of these, let me know how it goes!
For breakfast, I had shredded wheat, cottage cheese, and grapes.