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Measuring what matters: The art of the survey

On a very basic level, it’s not hard to create a survey. You ask a question, and hopefully people answer it. But from that point on is where things get complicated.

Many clients come to School Perceptions after having bad experiences or poor data after conducting internal surveys. There are actually many reasons why a survey of this type can go awry, and they are all actually very good reasons to consider a third-party administrator for your upcoming school or community survey:

survey, staff survey, education
Survey creation is part art, part science.

· Which questions are you asking? With over 20 years of experience in conducting surveys and gathering data, we’ve figured out which questions people will answer. More importantly, we’ve learned which questions not to ask. It’s important to create a survey that simply gives you the data you need, not answers to questions that don’t address your issues or that provide data that simply isn’t useful. Asking too many questions in a survey creates survey fatigue, which can cause people to leave the survey process before finishing or reduce the credibility of the data as people rush their answers toward the end.

· How are you asking those questions? Word choice matters. When creating a survey, our goal is to ask questions that are information based without leading words or implied answers. In our community surveys, for example, we typically provide factual information first so that the respondents can refer to the information when answering.

· Who is asking the questions? People are less likely to answer a survey question honestly if they believe there may be repercussions for a negative answer. That’s just human nature. As a third-party survey administrator, we provide a natural buffer for the survey respondent to provide candid responses. While our surveys do allow for some respondent self-identification – for example, a school staff member will select which school they work at and what their role is – the individual replies are kept anonymous.

· How can respondents answer? Creating the proper answer set to choose from is equally as important as the question creation process. In some cases, our survey questions are created with a scale of possible answers. Other questions sometimes should include a “don’t know” option or even the opportunity for a free response.

· What security parameters can be put on the survey? One of the biggest issues with free survey software or other platforms is data integrity. Without parameters and security measures in places, your data integrity can be compromised. For example, it can be difficult to determine if someone has taken the survey multiple times in an attempt to skew the results. School Perceptions’ surveys have safeguards in place to stop this from happening.

To learn more about how we truly measure what matters to your district, school, community or organization, give us a call at 262.644.4300 or email us at


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