2.2. Gathering data & survey questions

When surveying students, consider doing the following:

  • Assure Students of Anonymity – In addition to verbally assuring students of anonymity, instructors can place a statement near the top of most online surveys. They should also remind students not to share identifying information: “All survey responses are anonymous. Please do not share identifying information in your answers.”
  • Write Precise Questions – Instructors should feel free to ask open-ended questions on surveys, but question parameters should be clear, with little ambiguous language – the more ambiguous, the more likely a student is to skip. “Is your instructor an effective teacher?” is a less clear, less helpful question than “How does your instructor engage your attention?”
  • Keep Questions Short – Students are more likely to answer, and to complete the survey, when questions can be grasped quickly. Questions can open with direct, punchy words: “How,” “Does,” “What.”
  • Keep Survey Short – Online surveys, especially when used in class, should not extend beyond 5-6 questions, unless the instructor has signaled a more extensive survey with a lengthier approximate time. Instructors might also post an “expected time to completion” near the top of the survey.
  • Mix Question Formats – Instructors can mix question formats, moving among short-form answer, long-form answer, multiple choice, and Likert-scale. This provides different approaches and kinds of information for instructors, and makes the survey less repetitive for students.


For more about these tips, see Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning’s document on Creating an Anonymous Online Survey.


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Review, Amend, Apply: A Framework for Using Analytics in the Classroom Copyright © by Amit Chauhan; Andi Strackeljahn; Carrie Coaplen; Emily Oakes; Jennifer Turrentine; and Sally Jamerson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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