About Effective Surveys

Surveys are most effective when:

  • It has a high-response rate (%)
  • The questions are well designed
  • The results are shared
  • The results are acted on and the people taking the survey know the results will be acted upon.

Effective surveys are designed to measure specific factors of a particular theory. Validity and reliability are important for high stakes surveys that are used to evaluate performance. For these types of surveys be sure to read the psychometric analysis to be sure it meets your needs.

However, not all surveys need to go through a rigorous analysis to be very useful. Student feedback can provide information that helps teachers improve their practice (Baker, 2011), and make program and curriculum decisions (Goe, Bell, & Little, 2008). Surveys should be only one measure among many other measures when important decisions need to be made.

The length of a survey matters. "Survey fatigue" can set in on long surveys and lead to unreliable results. After a few too many questions, people may lose interest and just respond quickly to be done with the task. The younger the audience the shorter the survey. A survey of over 40 questions needs special consideration for survey taker conditions. A good "rule of thumb" is the responders age, add two, and that is the maximum number of questions you should ask.

Finally, remember the adage, "What gets measured matters." When you survey a group of people, you are giving them a vehicle to express their opinion. Sharing and acting on the results communicates that you are listening. Survey givers that don't share their results communicate that the results are bothersome to them, they don't trust them, or the results demand something the survey giver does not want to do.
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