Finding Opportunities and Building Relationships with Surveys

All schools are different. Therefore contextualized knowledge about everything from “Attendance” to “Zoning” is invaluable for successful partnerships. So, whenever I ask my colleagues for information about the teaching and learning happening in their specific department, I frame my request with this caveat; the information will allow me to:

  • Speak intelligently about the program
  •  Celebrate teacher and student successes and innovations
  •  Provide support will more intent and purpose

In turn, these three purposes provide meaningful opportunities, both planned and unexpected, to develop relationships with educators.

But even if the “Ask” is relevant, there are important details to consider when designing and presenting a survey. As you consider your next information request, these features can enhance your return rate and the power of your data.

When to survey

Educators are busy and there is never a perfect time to conduct an information request. But there are times that are more opportune than others. If you are hosting a professional learning opportunity or workshop build in time to gather information during the event, not after. Otherwise, the first week after the end of a marking period (quarter or semester) is usually a time of renewed energy for teachers. Likewise, asking after testing periods (state, district, IB, AP) in late May or early June can bring valuable end of the year reflective insights. The same timelines apply to administrators and central office staff with additional options, school vacations and summer. These audiences often have extended contracts and will be less encumbered during those days.

What to survey

This, of course, will be based on your intent. However, your “ask” should seek specific examples where possible. Similarly, include options for participants to connect with you and have an open-ended prompt where additional comments and questions can be offered.

How to survey

The term “survey” can be viewed as intrusive and a burden. Therefore, presentation and method matter. I have included some ways to conceptualize a survey through digital approaches. Sometimes using technology based tools to get information is met with gratitude because you have introduced a new resource for educators to use in their school. Regardless of what style you choose, easy access for the participants and an expected completion time should be provided.

  • Google Forms: These are fairly familiar to educators. Be sure to select your question type carefully based on the results you want. Too many open ended prompts will yield messy results.
  • Answer Garden: Craft a question that asks for 1-2 words or a phrase is the best way to use this tool. Results generate a text cloud with more frequently used terms being bigger.
  • Padlet: Public displays of information on this platform creates a powerful trove on information. You can utilize multiple formats and participants can upload images and videos to inform your ask.
  • Twitter: Scanning the twitter accounts and hashtags schools use can provide invaluable information about the culture and practices of your audience. Likewise, you can create a hashtag for participants to use for ongoing data collection.

The aftermath of a survey also requires strategy. Following up using the framing I noted above - knowledge, celebration, and support - is a meaningful collection of outcomes to share with your audience. Most importantly, demonstrate your gratitude. I it is a memorable step and can solidify relationships for future asks.

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About the Author

Craig Perrier is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He is also an online adjunct professor of history and education for Northeastern University and Adjunct Professor of Education, at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. He has taught in public schools throughout the U.S. as well as in Brazil for six years. Craig maintains the blog The Global, History Educator and is the creator of the free online teacher resource U.S. History in a Global Context. You can follow him on twitter @CraigPerrier.

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