Tools & Resources for Participatory Data Analysis by Sheila B Robinson

Hello! I’m Sheila B Robinson, AEA365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with some fun resources for getting people engaged in participatory data analysis. I just happen to be preparing a presentation on this topic for a group of educators who lead professional development programs, have a wealth of rich data about their programs, and who work with teams of other educators serving on their committees.

Lesson Learned:

Participatory data analysis is worth the effort and has the potential for several benefits:

  • Keeping people “in the know” about program data
  • Building rapport and trust among stakeholders
  • Engaging stakeholder in committing to program improvement and results
  • Being able to tell a more complete story of the program

But perhaps most important of all, a participatory process allows stakeholders to offer up their insights, perspectives, and understanding, supplying critical context to the data.

Rad Resources:

Fortunately, several evaluators and others have generously offered resources to help make your participatory sessions interactive and fun. Some are more suited to in-person meetings, but could be adapted with a little ingenuity. Others can be used to engage people in all kinds of meetings or presentations.

Cool Tricks:

Especially now, when many of our meetings are still taking place online, don’t forget to use features built right into your video conferencing software:

  • Chat box
  • Annotation
  • White Board
  • Polling

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

6 thoughts on “Tools & Resources for Participatory Data Analysis by Sheila B Robinson”

  1. Hi Sheila,
    I am also a student at Queen’s University taking a course on Program Evaluation Design. I enjoyed reading your post about exciting and unique ways that evaluators can engage stakeholders in unpacking the evaluation data. Participatory data analysis presented in fun and interactive ways is a refreshing alternative or addition to the more traditional format e.g., board meeting presentation.
    The tools for participatory data analysis that you have highlighted here are particularly powerful in bringing together various stakeholders who would normally not engage in mutual conversation about their perspectives on program improvement and direction. The data placemats and the google slides sticky note template, for example, are creative ways to share perspectives and interpretations of data. I especially like the idea of engaging in conversation before the data is presented – for example, hypothesizing and making predictions about what stakeholders think the data will say.

    I am wondering if there are evaluations that are more suited to participatory analysis than others? Are there evaluations where participatory data analysis would not be beneficial?

    Sharing evaluation findings can be a stressful part of the evaluation process. That being so, It is really great that evaluators and others have invested time and effort in finding new ways to make the process more easy-going and comfortable. And as you stated, one of the most valuable outcomes of the participatory approach, is how it allows stakeholders to share their perspectives and understanding in a trusting environment.
    Thank you for sharing these resources and tools!
    Best Regards,
    Pia Teini

  2. Good afternoon Sheila,
    Thank you for sharing some amazing and very practical resources. I am a teacher and school administrator, currently studying about program evaluation. I am interested in participatory approaches specifically including empowerment ideals, and for that reason was drawn to your post. I found it challenging when planning an evaluation to have participation in the data collection/analysis stages. You’ve included so many truly useful resources in the post that have helped me. I really like how you said that a participatory approach in data analysis aids in telling a more complete story of the program. From my perspective, participation in the data analysis stage helps both the evaluator and the stakeholder understand the how the data represents the experience of the program. Just as you said in the conclusion it allows for stakeholders to give a critical context for the data.

    You shared some great resources, I was specifically intrigued in the data placemats, I think that in many contexts it would be really useful when using collaboration in data analysis. I think that the greatest challenge would be to know how to best represent the data so that stakeholders of all backgrounds could understand. This would be important in situations where program implementors are involved and might not have the preparation to easily understand data.

    As mentioned earlier I have been looking at an empowerment approach. I am wondering in those cases, if you think that there is value in having participants attend these data analysis meetings? It would most likely be necessary to spend significant time explaining the data results. Do you think in these situations that the benefit would outweigh the costs?

    Also, if you have any tips that relate directly to using an empowerment approach, I’d appreciate your expertise!


    1. Sheila Robinson

      Hi! Thanks for your comments and kind words. I do think there is value in sharing data with any stakeholders, even with the added investment of time to prepare and teach. There is a wealth of great literature on empowerment approaches in evaluation. David Fetterman is a particularly prolific writer on this topic.

      1. Thank you for your response! I have read some of David Fetterman’s articles and found them very useful.

  3. Hi Sheila,
    I am a Master’s student at Queen’s University and am doing an evaluation project right now that includes portions on Participatory Data Collection and Analysis. This article was timely for me and very much appreciated!
    You included some great resources that have helped me build my understanding further and have helped me complete my project with confidence.

    Thank you for taking the time to write and share this article.
    All the best,
    Rachel Oke

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