Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Using surveys to gather data, assess, communicate

    In the past year, I’ve used a lot of surveys which have really helped in gathering data for students to work with, in assessment of student learning, and in parent communications.  I use SurveyMonkey but Zoomerang would work just as well.  Both have free versions.  I put links in Moodle or in emails.  I tried embedding in Moodle, but some students couldn't access the surveys, so I don't embed surveys any more.

Gathering Data

    At the start of the year, when I might not know my students all that well, I find out a little bit about their attitudes toward my subject (English) and what they’d like to learn.  At the end of the year, I ask which topics students enjoyed most/least, what I should do more of, and advice they’d give next year’s students.  The feedback was valuable and helped me make changes to improve learning.

    During our media literacy unit, we used a survey to determine how much time students spend with different media, and any difficulties they had experienced (strangers, bullying, etc.)  We then used this as the basis of discussions, writing, and math and graphing work in Excel.  


  Surveys are good for pre-tests – what do you know and what do you want to learn?  The free SurveyMonkey account won’t allow you to download a spreadsheet, which would make surveys better for tests, because then you could see who gave which answer; with the free account, copying and pasting makes this possible, but is more time-consuming. 

    For a part-way through a unit assessment – just to see what questions can be answered correctly – a survey could be helpful.  

    I don’t usually attach a grade to a survey.  There are really no controls with free surveys to assure me who made which responses.   But there are many assessments I do that aren’t graded – they tell me how I’m doing and how the class is doing.

Parent Communications

    Last year, I asked parents which communication modes I used which were most useful to them.  I wrote about that here:  I want to ask some of the same questions at the start of the year, and ask for other suggestions.

    It’s easy to create a survey and there are many different kinds of questions possible, including short-answer, essay, multiple choice.  It’s possible to require an answer to a question, to control whether the survey can be taken from the same computer, to include page-breaks and choose color. The free version of SurveyMonkey is limited to 10 questions, but I find that fits well with my students’ attention span.

    I’m setting up my start of the year surveys, modifying questions, clearing last year’s answers, curious to see how the answers will change.

    For Surveymonkey tutorials and guides, see

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