Qualitative data consists primarily of words and observations, rather than numbers. It can come in many forms and from a variety of sources, including responses to open-ended survey questions, focus group notes, interview transcripts, internship supervisor comments, essay responses, and student portfolios. Qualitative data are useful for answering “why” and “how” questions about student performance, approaches to learning, motivation, or experience. 

ATL Mini Grant Project: In the academic year 2015-16, the Department of Human Development received assessment mini grant funding in support of their project, “Qualitative Analysis of Mentor Evaluations of Human Development Interns.” This project involved hiring and teaching a student worker to prepare qualitative data for analysis and to use the constant comparison method of analyzing mentor evaluations of student interns. Mentor responses to open-ended questions were analyzed to determine the types of activities interns participated in, levels of responsibilities, and strengths and areas for growth for graduates’ success in the profession. Following the analysis, a written report was prepared to share the results with program faculty.

According to Mary Wandschneider and Deborah Handy, faculty in the Department of Human Development and co-project leaders, “We have used intern mentor evaluation for many years as a portion of our HD program assessment. This study has provided an opportunity to analyze the qualitative data provided by mentors, thus providing additional depth and richness to our understanding. Ultimately we will map the results back to the departmental Learning Goals and course activities to develop the scaffolding necessary to increase the likelihood that our graduates are successful human service professionals.”
For additional information about assessment mini grants, including examples of other previously funded projects, see ATL’s Assessment Mini-Grant webpage