Survey Says… Asking the “Right” Questions requires thought
In my experience, asking the right questions and focusing on the right programs, services, and/or components is a huge key to successful surveys. While the right questions or focus areas are different for all departments, I think that some of the essential elements are the same.
◊ Ask questions that your office want the answers to- if the office is asking for suggestions for improving a program but don’t have the time or resources to make changes in an efficient time period, hold off on asking the question.
◊ Make surveys inclusive- allow for people to check multiple boxes, write-in answers, or completely skip questions that they don’t feel comfortable or compelled to answer
◊ Write questions that are clear and easy for all participants to understand
◊ Ask questions that have a clear connection to the goals and mission of your department or university- in the case of classes make sure questions connect with learning outcomes
◊ Focus on surveying programs that provide a similar service to all participants- For example, while the conduct office has a central mission when it comes to informal hearings and we follow the same procedure for each one, the outcomes depend a great deal on the student’s violation and our meeting with them. Students have often had very different experiences with the police and legal system by the time we see them and this also influences the hearing. Surveying the informal hearing process is therefore problematic because so many other factors influence their answers. On the other hand, we can accurately survey incoming graduate assistants about the effectiveness of the presentations our office gives to them during their training. We have confidence that the same information is being given each time and the graduate students are all in a similar situation, of new faculty members. This confidence cuts down on the number of other factors that could explain the results we receive.