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Are you asking the right questions? 4 keys to create a stronger school survey

school surveys

Think about your life: How many surveys are you asked to take on a weekly basis?

Four, five, ten…twenty?

From Uber rides to Amazon purchases to restaurant visits–it seems like every interaction we have today is followed closely by an email or text asking for our feedback.

Surveys are a vital tool to help organizations measure the customer experience. For K-12 school districts, surveys are essential to strategic planning.

But it’s hard to guarantee that parents will respond to–or even see–your survey. Say nothing for ensuring the feedback they provide can be translated into meaningful improvements for students.

For more than a decade, the K12 Insight research team has partnered with school districts across the country to produce meaningful school surveys on topics from school quality to employee engagement to equity. The latest version of our Engage school survey solution includes a revamped bank of 52 pre-built surveys drawing from years of research and experimentation.

In the course of that work, we’ve identified four key components that any successful school community survey must include. If you’re looking to avoid survey fatigue and get meaningful results from your surveys this school year, here’s where you should focus:

1. Zeroing-in on the right content

Quality survey instruments require careful research and planning. To effectively ask the right questions, you first need to understand what exactly you want to learn. That starts by looking to past research and understanding how other schools or organizations have posed similar questions. It also means understanding the range of issues involved in your survey topic and determining how best to home in on the issues you most want insight into. When you’re ready, it’s time to develop well-constructed questions that get at the heart of your topic.

Key questions to consider:

  • Do the questions fully cover the intended survey topic?
  • Are the questions valid?
  • Will people understand what is being asked? It’s always good practice to check the readability of an instrument to ensure all participants can access the content.

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2. Using effective question types

Ever hear the expression, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” While what you ask is key to receiving valid and useful feedback, how you ask is equally important. What type of question you ask–whether true/false, multiple choice, open-ended, or others–is just as important as the content itself.

Key questions to consider:

  • Have you selected the most appropriate question types in your survey? For example, a drop-down question should be used if there are six or more answer options in a single question and multiple questions on the same page.
  • Does the survey include at least one open-ended item, where respondents can express their thoughts on a topic? It should.

3. Ensuring consistent and valid measurement

No matter how effective your questions, they have little value if not properly measured. Ensuring consistent data in your school surveys means developing measurement scales across similar question types.  

Key questions to consider:

  • Are answer options the same across similar question types?
  • Are your point scales consistent across the survey? Is there a “Don’t know answer” option?

4. Providing a quality user experience

School surveys should never feature a list of random questions. That’s called a questionnaire, and it’s not the same. To ensure the best feedback, order your questions logically; that will make it possible for survey takers to easily understand and respond to them.

Key questions to consider:

  • Does your survey follow a logical progression from start to finish?
  • Did you try taking the survey and timing it? How would you rate your experience?

Ensuring that your surveys are consistent, valid, and reliable takes preparation, time, and thoughtful design. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this work on your own. Our research team has created thousands of surveys for hundreds of districts across the country.

To learn more about Engage and K12 Insight’s suite of managed survey projects, reach out to your strategic account executive or request a free consult with one of our experts.

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