School leaders have to make crucial decisions all the time. Some of these may have short-term effects, but others have a lasting impact on future generations of students.
While there’s no denying that the school staff is aware of the institution’s challenges and strong points, any decision-making process is biased. For example, if we hear the same complaint from three different parents, we’re more likely to listen, but what about the other hundreds of parents?
That’s why basing decisions on assumptions or the experience of a small group of people isn’t the best way to figure out what needs to be changed or the most pressing issues.
Thankfully, there is one way to gather feedback without having to jump through hoops: school surveys.
As we’ve often seen during the lockdown, the most effective way to constantly check in on students, teachers, and even parents is by sending surveys. That’s because people were already tired of online meetings, and it was simply unsustainable to have individual discussions. Yet, by measuring online learning satisfaction, they’ve managed to monitor and adjust their remote education strategy.
School surveys have many advantages:
- Time-efficient — you get many answers in little time;
- Accurate information — as long as you ask specific questions, you’ll get more valuable information;
- Openness — people may open up more than in a face-to-face conversation;
- Address any issue — students or teachers likely share the same challenges. It’s important to identify them on time;
- Inclusive — create surveys in different languages so that non-English speakers can participate.
8 Surveys that help school leaders make better decisions
Let’s see some survey ideas to help schools make the best decisions for all stakeholders:
We’ve already talked about the importance of parent-school communication. Parental attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs towards the school can significantly impact student success. Moreover, younger students can’t give feedback and identify problems, so checking in with parents is the next best thing.
Parent surveys help you identify potential issues but also connect with them on a deeper level. They’re getting the message that the school is interested in their input and involvement.
Setting expectations is important in any type of class, be it blended, face-to-face, or asynchronous. However, it tends to be even more true for online-only classes. Due to the lack of immediate feedback, teachers don’t get to calibrate the expectations as the class progresses.
Students have different needs and ideas, so it’s good to communicate from the start what to expect. Sometimes, it’s even more important to understand what not to expect. But most of the time, teachers can adjust certain aspects of the class to fit their expectations. For example, if you set up a survey at the beginning of a class where students express their wish for small study groups, that can be easily arranged. It’s a great way to empower student voice and choice.
Class evaluation surveys are pretty popular, especially in online classes. Students give their opinions on multiple aspects, including teaching methods, assessments, and results. This, hands down, is one of the most effective ways to improve a class, especially when older students are involved.
Class evaluations can be seen as the equivalent of the expectations survey, but it’s positioned at the end of the class. Preferably, students get access to this survey as soon as they finish, which means that all teachers have to do is assign these surveys with the help of their LMS.
These types of surveys are different from class surveys because you’re looking to understand student satisfaction with your institution.
They are great for evaluating multiple aspects such as satisfaction with teaching in general, extracurricular activities, technology access, infrastructure, and auxiliary facilities such as the school media center. In this way, you’re getting a big picture of the issues that students are facing and potential solutions.
Lately, teachers have been under immense pressure and are still facing many challenges. The school climate should allow them to open up about these issues, but this just doesn’t happen for many reasons.
Teachers can be holding back for many reasons, including the fear that nothing will change anyway. Surveys are a good place to start a conversation by first identifying needs and challenges, and then leaders can continue with individual talks and focus groups.
In general, we have the technology to make learning accessible for everyone. However, covering the diverse needs of students with disabilities can be a tricky issue even for the most inclusive schools.
Accessibility surveys are a way to check in with students on a regular basis to understand what they need and how to make specific accommodations. It’s also important to include questions about the extent to which they receive help at home and whether they’d prefer to submit assessments in different formats.
Technology and edtech
A lack of technology is a significant barrier to online education. Frankly, it can also be a stressor for teachers and students alike. Finding a way to help students who have low access to technology can be a game-changer. Technology access surveys help schools make informed decisions based on where and why students have problems accessing lessons, completing assignments, or collaborating with their peers.
For example, many schools have decided to choose an LMS with offline mode functionality. In this way, students can access their lessons even if they have low or no Internet access at home.
Other major issues
The prevalence of school bullying and its online counterpart, cyberbullying, have been worrying teachers and parents for many years. One out of every five students admits to being a victim, but the numbers differ depending on your location.
Consequently, it’s a good idea to understand how much it affects your institution and, based on that, to know when to intervene. Anonymous surveys are great for this purpose since students won’t disclose their problems for many reasons, one of them being that victims can also turn into aggressors and vice versa. Other significant topic suggestions are student mental health and wellbeing.
Surveys are a great way to understand the major challenges faced by educational institutions but also a starting point for change. Implementing new school policies, improving current instructional practices, and even choosing edtech based on assumptions can only take you so far.
Surveys also help teachers regularly check in with students, especially when classes are large and time is scarce
Ioana believes that education in action is the only way to change the world. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.