How to Conduct Surveys with Your Class to Find out More about Teaching Writing

By Baroutsis, Aspa | Practical Literacy, October 2018 | Go to article overview

How to Conduct Surveys with Your Class to Find out More about Teaching Writing


Baroutsis, Aspa, Practical Literacy


The use of short surveys in early years classes enables teachers to find out children's opinions about their learning across many areas. Surveys used for this purpose do not need to be long or detailed (Walford, 2018). Rather, they can simply ascertain a child's opinion, likes or dislikes, their progress with the class learning, or elaborate on something that you want more information about. Surveys enable teachers to identify trends in their classes. As such, they can be invaluable tools when conducting design-based research projects.

Additionally, drawing on participatory practices, teachers can also work with students to identify suitable questions and topics for a survey. This is an interesting 'text production' task that, of course, could also lead to analysis of data, presentation and reporting of findings.

This is a short summary of some of the key aspects of getting started with surveys.

Building the survey

Software such as SurveyMonkey (www. surveymonkey.com) have free versions available for teacher use. You may even find that your school or system has its own survey software available for use. Before using a free survey software, check the relevant policies that the system might have about using free online software. Also, investigate the school-based options available through state and territory education departments to find out if software such as SurveyMonkey is available through the school's internet filters.

Another point to remember is to always delete the survey once you have completed the survey with your students and downloaded their responses. That way, you won't be storing the children's responses anywhere other than on a secure computer.

Any of these survey software options (as well as many others) will help teachers to write and administer simple surveys about children's literacy and literacy practices. Once you get started, you may find additional uses for survey tools.

Developing the survey questions

Regardless of the software being used, the question types are similar across all tools. Four of the more popular question types are:

* closed-ended questions such as yes/no responses

* semi closed-ended questions such as making selections from a prepopulated list

* rating scales

* open-ended questions requiring short responses.

The examples below are based on two surveys that were conducted with children in early years classes as part of design-based research projects on writing. These examples are about writing and text production but there are many applications available for early years classes.

Closed-ended questions

This type of question requires a simple 'yes' or 'no' response (see Figure 1). Variations on this type of question include 'true' or 'false' responses. In this example, all the responses are provided in the survey, and the children are not able to add other options. As there are only two fixed variables (yes or no), calculating trends based on children's responses is easy to accomplish using simple statistics such as percentages. So in this example, the teacher was able to identify the percentage of the class that considered themselves to be good writers.

Figure 1: Example of closed-ended questions

1. Are you a good writer?

[] Yes
[] No

Semi closed-ended questions

This type of question expands the number of options the children can select from, and also enables multiple responses. …

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