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New Era Surveying: Low survey response rates? Try this.

It’s a well-known fact: Strong survey response rates mean higher quality data. 

The lower the response rate, the less likely it is that what you’re hearing is truly representative of a stakeholder group’s (or your entire school community’s) perspectives and needs. 

But increasing your survey response rates can feel like a convoluted process. Especially in today’s climate where families, teachers, and staff are busier than ever. 

If you’ve created a thoughtful surveying strategy that focuses on relevant survey topics and allows for pacing (and prevents over-surveying), then higher response rates are likely already on the horizon. But there’s more you can do to encourage greater participation from your community. 

Below are 6 key strategies to help combat low response rates and ensure your next survey produces quality results. 

  1. Loop in your school community from the start
    You have a surveying strategy. At the beginning of the school year, let your school community know how many surveys they can expect from your school system, what quarter or semester you’re planning to administer them in, and why you’re doing them. This approach lets stakeholders know that this is an important way to ensure their voices are heard and ensures that—from the very start—you and your school community are on the same page.
  2. Promote your surveys before the invitations go out
    Setting survey expectations at the beginning of the school year is a great start to increasing participation. But, as the survey draws nearer, you need to launch a multi-channel promotion strategy that meets stakeholders where they are (like on social media, for example). Remind them about the survey and what topics are included, when and how it will be administered, and why it’s important to participate.

Unlock 4 strategies for effectively promoting surveys and other community engagement efforts during the pandemic (including practical ideas for each).

  1. Keep your surveys short
    It might seem obvious, but long surveys often overwhelm or frustrate participants—which can result in them dropping out of the survey before they’ve hit submit.
    • Focus on the questions that matter
    • Let participants know going in how long the survey takes to complete
    • Consider adding a save and continue button for longer surveys, allowing participants to complete longer surveys in multiple sittings
    • Leverage survey logic and branching to ensure participants are only answering relevant questions
  1. Look again at translation
    Your school community is diverse, and likely includes a large population that may not speak English as their first language. Translating your survey (and any promotional communications) into other languages that are prominent in your community gives everyone a chance to have their voice heard.Avoid free translation tools for this. While they are beneficial for many things, precise survey wording is critical to ensure valid results. Instead, use professional translation services or tap into the expertise of an internal translation team.
  2. Be strategic with your survey invites and reminders
    If you think about the number of emails that hit your inbox each day, it’s not hard to see how your survey invitation might get missed or ignored. Make sure your invites (and subsequent reminders):
    • Have compelling subject lines
    • Include a clear call to action
    • Set expectations, like survey topics and estimated completion time

And don’t forget to send out survey reminders to those who haven’t yet participated, making sure they know when the survey closes.

  1. Have a third-party manage the survey administration, compilation, and analysis
    The ability to remain anonymous is so important when collecting community input. It encourages participants to be honest about their feelings or perceptions without having to worry about their responses being used against them somehow down the road.Having an unbiased third-party conduct your survey has other key benefits too, such as a neutral perspective on the analysis and any recommendations.

We work with hundreds of school districts across the nation to administer and analyze relevant, research-based surveys. See how our team of expert researchers can help you make the most out of your upcoming surveys or other research projects.

About the Author

Kyle Freelander
Kyle Freelander is the Director of Marketing Communications at K12 Insight.

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