Activity: Collecting information in qualitative health research

Transversal Skills:
Interpersonal and socio-emotional skills
Learning to learn

Teaching- Learning Approach:

Cooperative learning (jigsaw)

   Miller Pyramid

Learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Know the strategic elements of collecting and generating information in qualitative research
  • Know the observational and conversational techniques in qualitative research designs
  • Identify the applicability and relevance of the use of observational and conversational techniques according to the context
  • Assess the main advantages and disadvantages of using observation and conversational techniques in qualitative research

As regards transversal skills, students should be able to:

Interpersonal and socio-emotional skills:

  • Express ideas clearly and fluently
  • Use precise and descriptive/content-specific vocabulary to enhance the topic or message
  • Share information in an organised and interesting way

Learning to learn:

  • Identify learning outcomes, relate these to prior knowledge, and manage their own learning process
  • Recognize learning possibilities and reflect on them as learning outcomes in relation to their own profession
  • Use prior knowledge to plan a strategy for approaching a new task, and to transfer what they have learned from one context to another, or from a previous task to a new task

Brief description of the activity

This activity aims to analyze the different techniques for gathering information in qualitative health research by reviewing concepts and using the puzzle dynamics as a group discussion methodology.


Activity plan: step by step


Before the activity

This activity works on how to design qualitative data collection instruments for qualitative research. It is based on a jigsaw dynamic, in which there will be 3 groups of experts, one for each main type of instrument: observation, interviews and focus groups. As such, before the activity, students do the following: 

Step 1. Read the theoretical materials. Read chapter 4 “Data Collection Techniques” of the book [Listening, Observing, Understanding. Recovering the narrative in Health Sciences. Contributions to qualitative Research] [1](in Spanish). Students from group 1 (observation) should put special attention to the fragment “Observational techniques”; students from group 2 (interviews), to the fragment “Conversational techniques – Individual interviews”; and students from group 3 (focus groups), to the fragment “Conversational techniques – group interviews”.

[1] Berenguera, A., Fernández de Sanmamed, M. J., Pons, M., Pujol, E., Rodríguez, D., & Saura, S. (2014). Escuchar, observar y comprender. Recuperando la narrativa en las Ciencias de la Salud. Aportaciones de la investigación cualitativa. Barcelona: Institut Universitari d’Investigació en Atenció Primària Jordi Gol.

Step 2. Read the qualitative health research article assigned to each group. You will have assigned a qualitative health research article to each group. Make sure that articles use the three different data collection techniques. Students will have to read the one employing the technique of their expertise and answer the following questions: 

  • What kind of information does the technique provide in these articles? 
  • How do you analyse the results of this technique?
  • What aspects of using this technique did you find most interesting? 
  • Would you propose any improvements in the use of this technique in this article?

Things to take into account prior to the activity:


  1. Context. You should decide how to sort students into teams. The activity is appropriate for groups of 30 students maximum. If you have bigger groups, consider introducing other techniques to build more expert groups.
  2. Materials necessary for its implementation. Make sure that the students have access to the material that they need to read before the activity. The room should allow students to move around and sit in groups. Tables and chairs should be movable. If you feel that the jigsaw dynamic is too complex, you can prepare some slides to illustrate the process. In that case, you should make sure that the room is equipped with audiovisual hardware.
  3. Human resources necessary for its implementation. The teacher should have a facilitating role and move around groups to fuel the debate. S/he should also have strong knowledge of qualitative health research. One teacher is enough even though it may depend on the overall group size.


During the activity

Step 1. Expert groups. Students should meet their expert group and share the information they previously analysed in order to consolidate their knowledge of the technique that was assigned to them. 

Step 2. Changing groups to learn about the other techniques. Build new groups composed by students of each expert group. They should explain to each other the basics of their technique so that everyone ends up knowing about the different techniques. Once they have completed this phase, they should work together to fill the following table.


What kind of information does it provide?

What needs to be taken into account when designing it?

How can the data be analysed?


Participant observation

Individual Interviews

Group Interviews


Step 3. Back to the expert groups: designing the data collection strategy. Now that they are more aware of their technique, they should draft a data collection instrument employing the technique that fits best the objectives of a qualitative study. Different approaches may be used for this purpose, here are some options: 

  • Facilitator /teacher can decide to set the objectives by himself and make all groups work on the same objectives. In this case, students must discuss and agree which would be the best collection data technique and why. Hybrid options may be encouraged.
  • Allow the students to set the objectives themselves and let them all have different objectives. 

Anyway, students should define what data they will collect and how and identify possible limitations. 


After the activity

After the activity, small groups should present to the whole class the data collection strategy that they designed. They should justify their choices, considering the specificities of each of the tools worked on in the activity. An open debate should follow about the appropriateness of the strategy they designed.

Evaluation tool

Transversal skills are difficult to evaluate, particularly among big groups of students. Therefore, in this section we propose a tool for students to self-assess the development of these skills. The tool is divided into three dimensions: suitability of the learning activity, level of achievement of learning outcomes, and transferability to professional settings. You can adapt the dimensions and/or indicators that you use according to your teaching-learning context and needs. 


Evaluation tool to self-assess the development of skills during the activity

For each of the following statements, select the best answer on a scale from 1 to 4, where 1 means “Not at all” and 4 indicates “Yes, totally”. N/A means “not applicable”.

  1 2 3 4 N/A
DIMENSION 1. Suitability of the learning activity
I found this learning activity adequate in terms of time          
I found this learning activity adequate in terms of resources (material resources, physical space, etc.)          
I found this learning activity adequate in terms of content          
I found this learning activity engaging          
I found this learning activity challenging          
I found this learning activity disruptive in comparison with other learning methodologies          
I found this learning activity useful to learn [add the subject]          
I found this learning activity useful to retain knowledge          
This learning activity motivated me to deepen my knowledge of [add subject or hard skill]          
This learning activity allowed me to feel emotions that would be rather difficult to experience with other learning methodologies          
I would recommend this learning activity to others          
DIMENSION 2. Level of achievement of learning outcomes
This learning activity helped me to improve… 
…my ability to [add a row for each learning outcome of the activity that you performed, both related to hard and transversal skills]          
DIMENSION 3. Transferability to professional settings
After this learning activity…
…I will be better able to apply what I learned to my reality (everyday life, classroom, professional life)          
…I feel more capable to perform in a professional setting          
…I feel I can make better choices regarding professional situations          
…I feel more prepared and self-confident to address professional situations          

OPEN QUESTION – Use this space to explain whatever you think is remarkable from the learning activity, including strengths, weaknesses, improvements, potential uses, feelings or dilemmas you encountered during the activity. 




Download evaluation tool in pdf here.




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           Author / Creator

      Nathália Rosa

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