Amanda Ripley


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Student Surveys: DIY Kit

2nd Nov 2012 posted in Education

A handful of teachers and principals have contacted me to say they want to try out the student surveys I wrote about for the Atlantic, and they want to know where to begin. 

First of all, I’m excited that people want to test drive this thing. A smart survey like this one produces more reliable feedback than classroom observations or student test gains, according to the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) research project. Students can give teachers surprising, actionable insight into the classroom culture—if you ask them the right questions.

Also: it’s cheap. Dirt cheap.

So here are a few links to help get you started:

1. If you want to use the full Tripod survey instrument (which is significantly longer than the version used in the MET study), and you have the funds to pay a vendor to help administer it, you may want to contact Cambridge Education, a for-profit consulting firm that has helped other school districts administer and analyze the full survey.

2. If you want to try out the shorter version used in the MET study and administer it yourself or through another vendor, then check out this very helpful briefing book recently published by the MET project.

The MET version of the survey is included at the end of the booklet, and it is available for public use. (But of course, it’s important to administer the survey correctly if the results are to be meaningful.) This primer has lots of useful tips, including specific tactics used by schools in Pittsburgh, Memphis and Denver. Executive summary is here

3. Another option would be the YouthTruth survey, which has administered a related survey to middle and high school kids in 24 states.

4. And finally, you could contact TNTP, which is working on its own survey (including elements from the MET study) and sounds intriguing. You can email them for more:

*One thing I’d add based on conversations I’d had with teachers: if you do a survey, consider discussing the (anonymous) results with your students afterwards. It is a good way to dig deeper into the findings—and it sends a message that the survey was not just bureaucratic nonsense. In general, survey-takers (of all ages) like to hear about the results. If they don’t, they may be less likely to take the survey seriously the next time around.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.