Survey Questions for Students
Surveying your students is often mandatory at the end of a class. Even if it’s not, it’s a great practice. Few professions have the luxury of getting such raw unfiltered feedback. This guide is going to give you a walk through on how to come up with top quality survey questions for students.
Before I get into it, I have to say that there’s some irony in giving you, the teacher, all the answers about how to survey your students. But you could argue that this is just research and not the answers…
The obvious truth of surveys, quizzes, polls, market research and any other kind of questionnaire is you need to ask smart questions to get thoughtful answers. Without asking your students appropriate questions , you may not get honest answers and this can skew your data, which could make the entire exercise pointless.
In this article we’ll cover the basics behind surveys, and how to ask the perfect survey questions for students so you can build on your experience and become a better instructor and class designer.
This is the breakdown of the article. Feel free to jump ahead:
- Why bother with surveying students?
- Basics of how to write a good survey?
- When to use surveys for students?
- What's next for your student survey?
Without any further ado, let’s get into it!
Why bother with surveying students?
Assuming you don’t have to survey your students, is there really any point?
If you're a teacher or a producer of teachable content, knowing how to get honest answers to a survey is key to making you and your content better. When a student feels like the class is not going well, or is too hard, or is not relevant to what they want to learn, they can get dejected and can stop trying.
This can leave them feeling that your class “sucks”, “is the worst”, “is sooo boring”, and a bunch of other young person expressions that I’m too out of touch to pretend I understand. Most important about this situation is they’re often all too willing to share their feelings with others. This is the kind of momentum that ends up having a broader impact across your classroom leading to a bunch of unwanted symptoms. To back this sentiment up with something more concrete; a study undertaken by Dimension Research found that 54% of respondents who shared a bad experience shared it more than 5 times.
Understanding why a student feels disgruntled can cut this problem off at the pass and even help improve your classes and increase student performance.
A positive experience by a student can essentially have all the opposite effects. Just like negative feelings, people are likely to share their positive feelings about your class and this can aid in building your enrolments. Ideally you want students to be focused and interested as not only does this aid in their knowledge take up, but it makes them feel happy about taking your class and feeling as having gained appropriate value out of the experience.
Basics of how to write a good survey
1. Get all your questions planned out first
Make sure the “scope” of each question doesn’t overlap too much. You really want to survey your students on their entire experience. Try to allocate an equal number of questions to each area of the class’s delivery:
- How clear the goals of the class were
- General and delivery presentation of the information
- Whether adequate explanation of concepts was provided
- How engaging the class was
- How personable and supportive you were as a teacher
- How the class was governed and organized
2. Stick to multiple choice if possible
To draw any meaningful conclusions from your survey, the results need to be standardized. It’s not impossible to achieve this through free-text answers, but you’ll likely get a spectrum of results and have to use some interpretation.
If you have the option, use a tool that allows you to build a multiple choice survey. If you’re stuck on how to do this, you can read our guide on how to set up a free quiz in Quizpipe.
3. Give balanced answers
If you’re keeping your students' survey to multiple choice answers then you need to make sure they can pick an answer that accurately reflects their opinion. Depending on how you’ve written your questions, this can be as simple as a scale:
- Very poor
- Below average
- Above average
You’ll want to adjust the wording depending on what kind of questions you ask.
4. Avoid leading or opinionated questions
Response bias is a real psychological phenomenon that you want to avoid if you can. Writing a question in a way that suggests which answer to pick, or adding any flavor of opinion to the question will only degrade the accuracy of the survey.
Not only are leading or opinionated questions a problem for your data, but they tend to annoy people who are being asked the question as they have a tendency to be confusing. Without proper planning and structure, it can be very easy to accidentally ask leading questions, but if you’re aware of it, they are easy to recognise and fix. With a few changes you can adjust your style to make your questions more neutral. Neutral questions are the best way to gather honest responses, rather than an answer you want to hear.
Examples of leading questions include:
Q: With all the violence on the streets, did you have a hard childhood?
A: Yes, it was hard dealing with the violence every day.
Q: Many people might be angry that the protected frog is stopping you from building your dream home, how does it make you feel?
A: Well, naturally we’re angry that we weren’t able build our dream home.
When you write your survey questions for students, check that you're not telling them what to think. Try to ask a question that allows your students to think for themselves. The above examples can be fixed easily by eliminating the additional and unnecessary information, for example:
Q: How was your childhood?
Q: What do you think about the frog being a protected species in this area?
Even using a single answer quiz style structure for your survey, you could get very different results with these two questions. If you ask the first question it’s likely that your answers will be skewed towards the negative end of the scale. This is because the question is leading and puts the idea of the text being complex (and therefore too hard) into their minds. The second question is more neutral and leaves the student to think of an appropriate response themselves, and you’ll get a more honest answer.
5. Take the survey yourself
Do it yourself and get a colleague to take it too. The more eyes, the better. Surveys can be tricky to get right and it’s often hard to see mistakes or “holes” in how they’ve been written as you’re putting it together.
We’ve all taken a test at some point where the answer was written into a previous question. This kind of “gotcha” applies to any kind of questionnaire or survey. So make sure you’ve checked to see if your survey is water tight before putting it in front of your students.
When to ask your students to answer a survey?
Once you’ve got your survey dialed and tested, it’s time for your students to complete it. This means targeting them on a day they feel comfortable and when they’re in attendance. A great time to make the request is when they’re in class to hand in an assignment. This is especially good as the class will be fresh in their minds and they’ll be thinking about what they learnt and how the class was delivered.
It has to be said that a good survey is a quick one, no one wants to be leaden down with a hundred questions that could take a huge amount of time to fill out. Give your students an approximate time that the survey will take to answer. Most people are okay with giving up about 5-10 minutes of their time for a survey, but if you head into the 20-minute area you’re looking at either poor answering, or people abandoning the survey half way through.
Another great time for a survey is when your students are on a short break from classes. After they hand in the final work for the class and when they get the results can be an excellent time. Generally, they have nothing more to do, but they’ll still be thinking about the class and have time for true reflection on how they thought the class went.
When to use surveys for students?
The survey could actually be about anything at all, and could even be used as a study guide. So, using the survey as a lead up to an exam could give you an insight to see where your students currently are in their progress. This can lead to making on the fly so there is a better outcome during the exam period.
If you feel there has been an active drop in class productivity and interest, it could be that your classes have become a little lackluster. This is common for the middle ground of any class, the excitement of something new has worn off, and there isn’t the need for panic about the final test yet. Inserting a survey about how the classes are going, or what the students have learnt so far is a great way to bring back some levity into the classes and engage with your students again.
While most student surveys are about how the class was, you can use them for all sorts of purposes. If you produce short quiz style surveys you can use them at the end of each class simply to reinforce the ideas that were discussed during the classes.
What's next for your student survey?
Developing a questionnaire or quiz and using appropriate survey questions for students is an excellent idea and they have been used for many years to get results on a variety of subjects. Give creating a free survey or a quiz a go with Quizpipe. You can build the quiz easily and then share it on social media platforms (which is perfect when you’re teaching online courses) or send the survey link to your students via email or messenger. You never know what the feedback might show, but whatever the results you can use it to build on and improve your course offerings.