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The Validity of Online Surveys

By Joy Jameson
The Validity of Online Surveys

At international schools it seems that every few weeks an on-line survey of some sort is sent out to staff members to complete. While an online survey asking for feedback on an in-service session seems pretty innocuous, a survey sent out to gain feedback regarding your boss, the headmaster, or school programs is a different story. Although it’s always stressed that no names are required and that administrators truly want to hear what you have to say, do you dare speak the truth if it is less than glowing?
On the one hand, being truthful will help the bosses to identify the weak points at the school, but, on the other hand, maybe the boss thinks that his work is already perfect and will feel that you are merely a troublemaker making negative comments. What should you do?
Before jumping off the cliff and really saying what you think, consider that through electronic wizardry the boss can most likely find out who said what on the surveys since they are often connected to a staff member’s name in some manner. In other cases, a question on the survey might ask you to state your division and/or specific area of work. Through this, the boss can narrow down the playing field with a high probability of pin pointing you as the source of the comments.
Electronic surveys are most often used by administrators because they are fast and easy to create and send out and the creation of a compilation of answers is just a click or two away. However, with a pencil and paper survey the bosses could perhaps obtain more in-depth and truthful answers, positive or negative, to truly know how things are going at the school. With pencil and paper surveys teachers would be more apt to risk making comments that are more truthful, more explicit, and to the point. Pencil and paper surveys could be easily completed at a staff meeting thus making them equally as easy to administer as on-line surveys.
In order to maximize functioning of the school, staff members need to be actively included in development and evaluation of administrative and educational processes and free to offer their true feedback whether it be positive or negative. This will create buy-in on the part of the staff members and create a very strong and productive work environment.
Therefore, Mr./Ms. Administrator, the next time you want to send out a survey, try doing it with pencil and paper. You will be amazed at the helpful feedback that you will receive and the greater number of staff members participating in the survey. Otherwise, the continued use of electronic surveys will most likely be a waste of everyone’s time since the results gathered will not be a true reflection of the situation nor the helpful information that is being sought.

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