Putting Evidence to Work in Your Library • Subjective Data Collection

Now it's time to take a look at subjective evidence. Rather than a cut and dry view of things, subjective evidence is more open to interpretation and could be related to emotional responses or perceptions. Collecting subjective evidence can be about both telling the broader story of an issue or taking a deeper dive and looking closely at the nuance and fudgy edges of an issue. These are things that objective evidence may only be able to hint at.

One topic that lends itself easily to the collection of subjective evidence is book selection by students. Whether we're talking about genrefication, branching out to new topics or genres, selecting on reading level, or simply looking at whether students are picking a book that they'll actually be interested in, taking a look at how students select materials often produces subjective evidence. It's about what motivates students, their perception of what they're going through as they make their selection, and how they feel at the end of the process.

With book selection in mind, let's take a look at how you might go about collecting subjective evidence to inform your practice. If you're aiming to improve book selection and check out with high school students who are well documented as having many reluctant readers among their ranks, you might focus on conducting random interviews with students during certain free periods in the library or elsewhere in the school. You could focus on asking them about the type of books or movies they're interested in.

Going deeper, you could then include follow up questions about why they liked those books and if some related materials you know of might interest them. As you ask these questions and take notes, you're getting subjective data based on student feedback that could help you make some changes to your program or your collection.

It's a different type of information and has more depth than the objective evidence you might get from, say, a survey that you asked students to check off the boxes of the genres they like.

Perhaps one of the best uses of subjective data is storytelling. Imagine you were to do some deep data collection with one class, kind of like a case study. Specifically, you might want to look at what motivates different students in reading for leisure. Rather than focusing on specific outcomes of comprehension, you choose to focus on how students feel as you make certain changes to selection, promotion, book pairing, and other methods that help this one class with reading for pleasure.

As you go along, you ask for student feedback, take exit tickets about perception, have class discussions about the reading process, and the other subjective methods. This is all great evidence, but maybe you also notice that three particular students have really made some big changes in the amount of reading they do for fun, and that they're much happier with the books they're reading. With these three students, you decide to conduct interviews to really get a sense of what interventions worked for them, and what caused such a change in their behaviors. Telling the story of these three individuals makes for a strong case in advocacy.

As we leave this lesson on subjective evidence, think again about the types of evidence that you collect in your library. What stories do you want to tell about your students and what evidence can you collect that really demonstrate the changes that you can make in your library?

MLA Citation DiScala, Jeffrey. "Putting Evidence to Work in Your Library: Subjective Data Collection." School Library Connection, January 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2186031?learningModuleId=2186016&childId=2186032&tab=1&topicCenterId=1955261.

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Entry ID: 2186032

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