Implementing Student Interest Surveys: Tips for Survey Methods

Learn Strategies for Surveying Students

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Students don't always know what they want or what they need, but sometimes, a teacher wants to get the pulse of his or her class in order to ultimately benefit the students. It's good to get feedback sometimes. Surveying is a great way to get the information you need. Implementing a student interest survey can help a teacher figure out what his or her students are thinking, what they may want or even need, and how they can best be helped. Here are some ideas and survey methods for implementing a successful survey:

  1. Know your goal. Why are you assessing student interest? Are you looking to start a new program? Pick a new extracurricular activity? See if your students want more tutoring? See if they liked the last interactive lesson? From whom do you want this information - the whole school? One class? One demographic group? You may be looking for a whole grade to give you answers on one main question, or you may have many questions you want answered from your own class. You may want general answers "Will you use after school tutoring?" or specific ones "Do you find the Thursday math tutoring program helpful?".

    Whatever your goal, it is important to know it clearly as you create the surveys. If your goal is unclear, your survey will be unclear and your results will not be useful. On the other hand, if you know what you want to determine, you can craft questions that are targeted towards finding that information. Accordingly, you will have a survey that will give you the information you are seeking.

  2. Know Your Students. It is important to know with whom you're dealing in order to ask effective questions. If you are surveying your own class in the middle of the year, you will have a good handle on what they can comprehend, how well they will likely to one, and how best to coax answers out of them. On the other hand, if you're presenting one to a new group of students whom you have just met, or maybe won't ever meet, you will probably have to rely on what you know about grade-level appropriateness and use general common sense when you compile it.

    Keep in mind things like reading and vocabulary level, attention span, and maturity level. In other words, craft questions that are geared to your target audience, not over their heads (nor dumbed-down). If you're not sure how to address a particular audience, ask a colleague who may be more "in-the-know". Luckily, most kids in any grade will have some respect for a survey that's asking them what they think or feel. You want to make sure they "get" what you're asking.

  3. Encourage honesty. Sometimes students are wary of filling out forms that ask them to give their opinion on things, especially if it may be negative. There's always that "Will this effect my grade?" question lingering out there. And with older kids, there's also the "What are my friends putting on this survey?" issue. Dishonest answers to the questions will not provide you with useful information.

    Encourage honesty by keeping the survey anonymous. Let students know that the results will not be shared with their peers and won't be tracked back to them. Emphasize that the results of it are important and will help you be of more use to them.

  4. Allow for extra comments. Sometimes, a student interest survey asks all the right questions about its topic and a teacher gets all the information he or she needs. On the other hand, sometimes, there's helpful information you could use but didn't think to ask for. Don't underestimate the creative thinking power of your students. When giving a one, leave some space for "additional comments". This is especially useful if the rest of the survey doesn't allow for expanding much on ideas. You never know what the students may tell you that you didn't even think to ask. Some of it may be of no use, but some of it may be just what you were hoping to find.

Now you know how to successfully implement student interest surveys. Once you've collected the student surveys, you can gather the results. Good luck!


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