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Kids are the experts.

A look inside our process to produce research-based surveys.

Occasionally, we’re approached with a question that goes something like, “How do you, ya know, make a survey?” In theory, anyone could make a survey. Head to one of the many online survey-making websites, put in some random questions, send it out to some people, and voila—data!

But are you sure? Are the questions you’re asking being read in the way you may have intended them to be? And what kind of data? Is it good data? Is it the data you need?

As a survey company, you can and should expect more from us. And you should be confident we develop each survey by answering the following questions.

  • What is necessary to measure?

  • What do families and practitioners need?

  • What questions duplicate the same concept?

There are no better experts on how school is going than the kids. Earlier this spring, we sought help in piloting some new, student-focused surveys with students themselves. One district we’d like to make a special call-out here is the Slinger School District, a district located about a half-hour northwest of Milwaukee.

Administration and staff were immensely helpful in connecting us with Slinger students involved in student council at all levels. In particular, we’d like to thank Amy Keliher, Amanda Schwensohn, and Daren Sievers.

We held several focus groups with these students to better understand:

  • What questions make sense? What don’t?

  • Is our response scale not only appropriate but accessible for kids? (Like emojis!)

  • Are there questions that should be taken out?

  • What questions should we add that you would like adults at your school to know that we aren’t currently capturing?

We could have spent hours with these students perfecting our student-focused surveys. They were engaged, thoughtful, and patient as Bill and I tried to put ourselves back in the shoes of children and teens.

In a future post, we’ll dig deeper into the research behind our survey development, including our applications of design-based research (DBR). In the meantime, if you have questions about our work or are interested in learning more about the collection of student surveys we offer, please don’t hesitate to contact us at!

And if you’re looking to jumpstart your expertise here, feel free to work ahead and check out these related articles! (It’s OK if you don’t…)

Anderson, T. & Shattuck, J. (2012). Design-Based Research: A Decade of Progress in Education Research? Educational Researcher, 41(1), 16-25.

Barab, S. & Squire, K. (2004). Design-Based Research: Putting a Stake in the Ground. The Journal of Learning Sciences, 13(1), 1-14.

Brown, A. L. (1992). Design Experiments: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges in Creating Complex Interventions in Classroom Settings. The Journal of Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

Reimann, P. (2011). Design-Based Research. In L. Markauskaite, P. Freebody, & J. Irwin (Eds.), Methodological Choice and Design: Scholarship, Policy and Practice in Social and Educational Research (pp. 37-50). Springer.

The Design-Based Research Collective. (2003). Design-Based Research: An Emerging Paradigm for Educational Inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Rob DeMeuse, Research Director & Project Manager.


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