Data Collection Plan

Choosing and collecting data to measure course effectiveness.

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The importance of a data collection plan

When instructors teach, whether intentionally or not, they evaluate their courses. Evaluation may occur informally, based on their opinions of how the course went, reflections on what worked well, and which aspects needed improvements. Data collection may also be more systematic, such as analyzing student evaluations or grades. Regardless of the data used, or how it is used, it is best to develop a cohesive plan to ensure that you make purposeful and meaningful choices.

The following are types of data grouped by who is making the evaluation (students, instructors or faculty peers) and what is measured (e.g., student achievement, experience with the course and experience with instruction).

Who is evaluating?

It is important to note that different people will have varying levels of expertise to inform your course evaluation and suggest improvements. For example, students may be experts in their experiences (e.g., whether they can understand you, whether they feel they understand the material) but not experts in other areas (e.g., are you providing the latest research or relevant content?). Further, a peer faculty member might be a good source for scope of content, but not for whether you are communicating well with your students. To elicit this type of information, you could ask a mentor to observe your class formally or informally.

The design of your course may be reviewed or evaluated before the course begins, as well as during instruction. It may also be difficult to separate the effects of instruction from course design. For example, if you have designed too much content in a lecture, and students inform you that you have talked too quickly in the lecture, is this a design or instructional issue? There are, however, factors that are not part of your design. Do you speak loudly or clearly enough? Do students feel they can approach you for help? These are mainly instructional effects connecting back to how you interact with students including verbal and non-verbal communication. Part of your later analyses may require you to determine which factor or combination of factors are responsible.

The following sections elaborate on the types of data you might collect. These may be used for the course as a whole or for an individual unit. There are two major considerations for what data to use:

  1. When will you collect information? Before, during or after instruction?
  2. How will the data be used?  As feedback for:
    • Student performance, given to students to improve learning during instruction?
    • Instructor performance, to the instructor during or after teaching to improve the course design and instruction?

These questions are often linked in that how the data will be used often determines when you need to collect it. For example, observations of teaching will likely occur in real time but could be recorded for later analysis. Or if you plan to give formative feedback to students, or receive feedback about your instruction from students, this will need to occur while changes can still be made. Consider these questions as you make choices about your data collection.

Student achievement

Student self-report of their learning and experience

Instructor and peer faculty measured


Student self-report of their learning and experience

Instructor and peer faculty measured


Student self-report of their learning and experience

Instructor and peer faculty measured

Creating a data collection plan

Use the following steps to plan your data collection:

  • Step 1: Download the data collection plan template.
  • Step 2: Begin by determining what areas you want to analyze for your course (e.g., student achievement, design or instruction). Choose a small number of important indicators so you do not become overwhelmed with data collection.
  • Step 3: Create any instruments that do not exist and plan when this data will be collected. Some data may need to be analyzed while teaching if it is to be used formatively, while other data may wait until after the course is over.

Next steps

Once you have finished planning data collection, the next steps are to consider how you will combine and analyze data to make improvements.