The surveys and forms you send out to your school community are crucial in nurturing a strong, communicative environment. You have to be as concise and engaging as possible so that more community stakeholders will respond to you and you have more data to work upon. In other words, feedback is critical to a well-functioning school community, which is why we created our intuitive Survey Builder tool. Survey Builder provides a clear and streamlined approach to gathering the concerns and feedback of the school community through one centralized solution. However, surveys can only be successful if thought and attention have gone into their creation. For that reason, this blog aims to shed some light on how to create feedback forms that your community stakeholders will want to answer.
Know the audience
The first piece of advice is simple - know your audience. Are you sending surveys to teenage students? Parents of young children? Teaching staff? Always considering your target audience and keeping them at the forefront of your mind will help you hone the language in your survey questions. For example, if sending feedback forms to students, the language you use should be different from how you approach adults. Perhaps you’re looking to gain feedback from younger years, in which case it is all the more important to write grade-appropriate questions.
Another advantage to knowing your audience is that you can really filter down the number of questions you plan on asking. It’s no surprise that lengthy, wordy feedback forms are less likely to garner a response than shorter ones. So, carefully consider the questions you include in your survey - asking irrelevant questions wastes both their time and yours. Plus, if respondents see questions that are not relevant to them and they cannot relate to, this could push them to leave the survey incomplete.
It’s always worth re-reading your first survey draft and looking at it from your audience’s perspective. Would you want to fill this survey out? Are you encouraged to move through the questions? Can you see the benefits you will get from completing this survey? If the answer is no to any of these, then reconsider the questions you’ve written. If the questions do not feel like someone spent time on them or that they matter, the responses will not be something people spend time on. This will have the opposite effect of building community relationships and will increase the distance between stakeholders.
Be clear about the benefits
Strongly linked to the previous piece of advice, you should always be clear about the goals you have for the survey. These can be both internal and external goals. For example, if you are distributing a survey among teachers to assess the pulse of your school’s staff environment, highlight very clearly at the beginning of the survey that you are looking for information to help improve their workplace. This makes the survey relatable for the audience since they know straightaway how taking the time to fill this survey out will benefit them in the long run. This will also help to cut down on the length of the survey, likely yielding a better number of completed responses.
Whereas this would be classed as an external goal (meaning it is one you can share with the respondents), don’t hesitate to set yourself internal goals, too. This could be in the form of KPIs (key performance indicators). For example, say your previous survey had a response rate of 30%. Set yourself a target of 40% for the next one and increase that target going forward. Not meeting the goals you set? There’s no harm in decreasing the next target slightly and reassessing why you didn’t get the response you wanted.
Similar goals can be shared with the response teams, too. If, for example, you’re sending surveys to families in the school community, set response time goals for the appropriate response teams. A good, holistic feedback tool should be able to show feedback times, as well as entire conversation histories and response team allocations.
Always considering your target audience and keeping them at the forefront of your mind will help you hone the language in your survey questions.
Use closed questions if possible
Regarding the types of questions you should ask, it’s important to understand the difference between open and closed questions. Open questions can have many answers and respondents could give anything from a one-word reply to a long paragraph. These questions invariably require more reflection and effort from respondents but can yield higher quality, personal responses. On the other hand, closed questions often require just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Whilst these do not give much insight, their quick nature does mean they’re more likely to garner responses. Of course, both question types have their place, and sometimes it can be important to include open questions for longer answers. It is worth, however, using these sparingly and avoiding them entirely for younger audiences.
Another mistake you should avoid is combining multiple questions into one or being too vague. See the examples below.
- How do you feel about your child’s teacher?
This question is far too vague to be able to get the level of accurate detail you want. A parent could, for example, get along with the teacher on a personal level but dislike the way they teach their child. Or, they could like the way the teacher teaches the class, but not the way they interact with their child one on one. A better way to ask this question would be to divide it into multiple, separate questions. See below.
- How do you feel about your child’s teacher’s…
- Teaching capabilities?
- Classroom management?
- Teaching personality?
- Relationship with your child?
- Do you like the communication style of your teacher and principal?
Naturally, these are two different questions merged into one. A community stakeholder’s thoughts on a teacher’s communication style could be completely different from that of the school principal, and teachers and principals are two roles that should be assessed separately. Here’s how they should be structured instead:
- Do you like the communication style of your teacher?
- Do you like the communication style of your principal?
- How would you feel about upgrading the playground with a new slide?
This question implies that a slide is the only option. But what if people would rather have a new swing set? Or to invest the upgrading funds into blacktop games? Whilst this question structure is not inherently incorrect (it could be that a new slide really is the only option!), posing the question in the following format could increase engagement from your respondents.
- What would you choose to upgrade the playground with?
- A new slide
- A new swing set
- New blacktop playground games
If asking this question to younger students, you should change the language to be grade-appropriate. For example:
- I would like a new
- Swing set
- Blacktop playground game
Taking the time to think your surveys through before sending them can make all the difference to form completion rates and ultimately enhance the measures when responding to feedback. The best ways to increase your chances of response are to personalize the surveys as much as possible, always keep your target audience at the forefront of your mind, be clear about what your goals are, and swap as many open questions as possible for closed. For more information on writing surveys to collect information from your school community, check out our Survey Builder tool.