Building Buy-in for your Surveys

What You'll Learn

The focus of this article is strategies to consider for increasing the quality of responses and response rates with students, staff, and families. 

Why Does Community Investment Matter?

Collecting and tracking feedback from students, teachers, and families provides you with keen insight into people’s experiences as well as knowledge about where and how you can grow and develop moving forward. Panorama’s survey instruments focus on the topics that are most likely to produce improved outcomes.

Surveys offer a easy and scalable way to collect feedback from many different members of your community. But in order to get good perception data, you need your respondents (students, staff, and/or families) to believe in the process. Here are several strategies that will help you increase understanding and buy-in so that you will get the high-quality feedback you seek.

Take Action

General Strategies for Building Buy-In

  1. Share how helpful the last round of data was:  If you have conducted surveys in the past, share how the data was used and why it was so important. This establishes a virtuous cycle - the more you use the data in ways that people can see that their feedback matters, the more high-quality responses you will get.
  2. Be transparent about purpose and promise feedback:  Explain what perception data will help you learn, focusing on the areas that community members are likely to be interested in and promise to share those results with them once the survey has been completed. For example, “Many of you have wondered whether our girls feel more comfortable in their English and social studies classes. Collecting perception data will help us answer that question.”
  3. Pique respondents’ interests:  Share scenarios that illustrate how collecting perception data can improve students', teachers', or families' lives, so people have a reason to invest their time in taking surveys. Imagine the following scenario for administering a parent survey: “Right now we are revisiting our bullying policy. Knowing how safe your children feel at school will be a big factor in our decision-making." 
  4. Leverage relationship:  As much as possible, have people who are close to the respondents be the ones who recruit people to participate and provide their feedback. For instance, a student survey might work better if it is administered by guidance counselors or teachers who know the students well than by a new principal who is still getting to know the students. A PTA president might be a great person to get parents excited about a family-school relationships survey.
  5. Show how the benefits outweigh the costs:  Emphasize how much will be learned (in specific terms) and how vast the potential for improvement is while underscoring how minimal the costs are. For instance, “It will take just a couple of minutes to fill out our family survey and we’ll learn significantly more about how you are involved in your child’s school. This will help us make better decisions in connecting with you, as parents, to engage in school and support your children’s schooling.”
  6. Invoke a team norm:  By noting that everyone is in this together, on the same team, you can begin to signal that each person is responsible for doing his or her part for the whole group. If you can reinforce that “nearly everyone provided their feedback,” that also adds positive social pressure. At the same time, you also want to stress to respondents that their individual, unique responses are vital to understanding their personal perceptions of the school.  

Building Buy-In For Student Surveys

The nice thing about student surveys is that they can typically be conducted during the school day during a designated time, and you can ensure nearly 100% response rates. In this case, the challenge is less about trying to get students to fill out the survey and more about getting them to fill it out with care, providing thoughtful responses. Towards this end, consider:

  1. Identifying some student leaders from different populations and asking them to talk up the survey with their peers.
  2. Reinforce that this is a rare, unique opportunity to have school leaders and their teachers really listen to student opinions on how to make the school better. Particularly in the beginning of the school year, there is an opportunity to make changes to improve the student experience in the coming year. Several of Panorama's partners emphasize that this is a “progress report” on teachers that students get to fill out - a role reversal that can be very appealing to students!

Building Buy-In For Teacher and Staff Surveys

Because so much of schools’ focus tends to be on student learning, the quality of faculty/staff work environment often gets put on the back burner. However, surveys can be a fantastic way to signal that the school cares, and to learn about what is going well or not so well.

  1. Administer the survey to a captive audience: Most professionals who work at schools feel that time is their most valuable resource. If you can carve time out of a faculty meeting, it won't feel like they're losing their time and they may be more able to invest in the survey as a consequence.
  2. Acknowledge that the community values teachers’ opinions: Schools need to know what is going well and what might be improved from the population that knows the school the best – teachers and staff. The survey provides an opportunity to have faculty and staff opinions gathered in a way that all voices are heard, not just the loudest voice at the faculty meeting.

Building Buy-In For Family Surveys

Collecting thorough feedback from families and ensuring you collect representative responses from all segments of your community can be challenging. Panorama’s surveys are offered in eight languages, lowering this barrier somewhat, but it still takes diligence and creativity to get great responses from busy families.

  1. Change the messenger; have students explain to their own families how important their feedback is. Parents may be too busy for a request from a stranger at the school, but they are likely to find it much tougher to say that they are too busy to do a favor for their son or daughter.
  2. Emphasize that schools need parent feedback to create the best learning environments for students. Parents know a different side of their child…one that the school may not be fully aware of. However, the survey gives parents a chance to fill in that missing information about their child so that the school can help better address the child’s learning needs.
  3. Use this Survey Communication Toolkit for Family Surveys to engage with your families and create excitement before and during the survey administration process!

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