Student retention is a problem across campuses. Understanding how students feel about your school is an essential part of identifying the areas that with improvement can help you provide students with a better experience and increase satisfaction. Surveys give your school insight to what students think, their priorities and how you can better help them achieve success. But, how do you create a survey that is measurable, moves you closer to your goals and produces usable information?
Why do students wait to buy their course materials? What is the best way to communicate with students? Do students feel like your school really cares about what they think? You might have a guess, but do you actually know the answers? Surveys can help you identify problem areas and even find the best solutions for those problems.
In an effort to discover why students weren’t meeting their potential in class, a high school physics teacher in Texas developed a survey to determine what students thought would help them be successful. Rather than guessing, he asked them directly, which allowed him to make informed decisions. Using his results, he changed the way he taught the material and identified the areas where students were fell off track. The result: student scores soared. Now, the school has implemented a similar method of engaging all students in their education.
How to create surveys
- Identify the priority areas that the school could benefit the most from improving.
Does your school need to lower student costs? Increase retention? Improve student relations? Define the area you want to focus on with this survey.
- Set a measurable goal.
Knowing the outcome you would like to achieve will help you set goals. However, it is important the goals are measurable. Like with the above example, the teacher was able to increase student grades. It was a measure of success that could be easily defined and tracked. Ask yourself, what does a successful outcome look like? What do you hope to achieve with this course of action?
- Develop close-ended questions that offer insight into problem areas.
Outcomes are easier to measure when the questions are closed-ended. It makes the data easier to track and to find correlations. It is okay to have a few open-ended questions, but they will need to be reviewed on an answer by answer basis. However, they may also identify some areas that you hadn’t considered.
- Beta test the survey.
Make sure your questions are clear. The individuals who write the survey questions will know all of the back story and intent behind the questions. Because of that knowledge, it will be harder to identify the areas where the question isn’t as clear as it needs to be. Form a committee of faculty and/or students to give feedback on the questions to make sure students understand information you are looking for.
- Recruit faculty buy-in with transparency.
Demonstrate to faculty members why the survey is important and how it can help students. With the example above, when the school adopted the teachers survey method, there was some faculty resistance. They didn’t want their teaching dictated by student opinions or for a student with a grievance to use the survey to attack them. However, allotting for ample time to answer faculty questions, having the faculty preview the questions and including them in the survey review process can help alleviate any worries they may have.
Surveys can be used to gain faculty or alumni insight as well. We would love to hear if you have used surveys in the past and what best practices you use.