DIY Pupil, Parent or Staff Surveys - Part 1 Design

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Okay, so everyone is telling you that you need to consult the views of Pupils, Parents & Staff.

You'd like to use some in-house questionnaires, but what's the best way to do it?

Well, over the next few weeks, we thought we'd try and share some of the things you will need to think about and try and help you to avoid the most common pitfalls.

This is a bit of a work in progress - We hope to add some examples and screen shots soon. In the meantime though, if you have any questions, please fire away!

Essentially there are 4 distinct steps:

  1. Design the questionnaires
  2. Deployment
  3. Data Capture
  4. Data Analysis
This week we're going to look at Questionnaire Design.

There are 6 factors we consider when designing a survey or questionnaire:
  • Content i.e. the questions
  • Language & Sentence Structure
  • Response Types
  • Length
  • Layout & Design
  • Guidance i.e. completion instructions
  • Testing
Let's discuss each one of these in more detail.
Question Content
Firstly you will need to write the questions! The key here is to focus on why you are doing the survey. Work backwards and imagine what information you would like to have at the end. What decisions do you think you will want to make? Are there any areas of particular focus at the school?
You also need to consider any grouping levels for the final analysis. E.g. Do you wish to be able to analyse the results by gender, year group, staff role etc? Take care though - the more attributes you capture, the more complicated you will make the analysis of the results and the more difficult their interpretation.
Question Language
When you write the questions, tailor the language to the audience. For example, a KS1 question would be very different to a KS5 question. As a general rule, keep it as simple as possible. For parental questions you may need to review the language from the perspective of non native English speakers. You may even wish to consider translations.
Question Structure
Try to avoid ambiguity. Avoid writing questions which are actually two questions. e.g. "Pupils are smartly dressed and polite"
Question Responses
Is the question a statement to which you reply very good, good or agree/disagree? Is it a Yes or No question? Do you need to allow a 'Don't Know' option? If the responses are very good to bad or similar, will you allow respondents to "sit on the fence" by choosing the middle response? Younger pupils will often be confused by too many choices.
Number of Questions
Keep people interested by keeping the number of questions as low as possible. Older children can cope with more questions than younger children. Many Parents will lose interest quickly if faced with page after page of questions. It is acceptable for a staff survey to be many times longer than a pupil or parent survey as hopefully staff will most clearly understand the benefits of particpation, not least to themsleves! 20-40 questions for pupils and parents is probably about right.
Layout & Design
Don't cram - Allow enough space around questions and response boxes so they're easy on the eye. This will ensure they are both inviting to complete and also easy to complete with no risk of mis-ticking boxes. The use of colour can make a survey more welcoming as can careful choice of font and character size. Colour can also assist with understanding - a traffic light or smiley face system could be used for younger children for example. If you are going to be using automated scanning software to process the results, ensure that any response box spacing minima are complied with. If you are going to manually input results, good layout will also make this process easier.
If your survey will not fit on one side of A4, you will need to either print on A3 or consider carefully the complications of keeping both pages together or scanning surveys which have been stapled!
Guidance
Remember to include instructions at the start of the survey about how to complete the response boxes - e.g. tick, cross, circle. Advise what the respondent should do if they make a mistake. Thank respondents at the end of the survey.
Testing

Finally, pilot your survey with a small group of staff, parents or pupils. Listen carefully to their feedback about language, ambiguity, ease of use etc. Monitor how long it takes them to complete.

Next time we shall look at deploying your surveys.

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