Online Surveys for Language Teachers

A survey is an investigation into the opinions and experiences of a group of people — the target — done by asking them a series of standardized questions — the questionnaire. Surveys are useful for gathering research and ideas on a specific topic. They may be online, through a website, or paper-based. On this page we look at online surveys.

A few reasons why TEFL teachers and other personnel might need to conduct surveys:

What's the difference between a poll and a survey? Essentially, a poll is a "quick survey", answering only one question. A survey can answer more questions in more depth.

Survey Design

The key to a successful survey is preparation and careful planning. Time taken at the design stage will help to ensure the maximum number of responses and meaningful results.

The Survey Questionnaire

Survey websites make it easy to create online surveys, get responses and analyse results. Paper-based surveys involve more work yet still have their place. But the effectiveness of any survey depends to a large extent on the quality of its questionnaire. Whether online or offline, writing an effective survey questionnaire takes thought and planning. For best results, survey questionnaires should:

A survey can ask questions in several different formats:

Survey Question Types

Survey Do's

Observing these simple quidelines will help ensure that your respondents understand your survey requirements and complete it as accurately and fully as possible.

Do define your objective

Do know your target

Do give your survey a good title

Do provide simple instructions

Do write objective questions

Do use simple language

Do use mainly closed-ended questions

Do be consistent

Do consider how long respondents should spend on your survey

Do think about the order of your questions.

Do include appropriate ranges and rankings in a logical order

Do include enough choices

Do consider the look and feel of your survey

Do test your survey before you publish

Survey Don'ts

Observing these simple quidelines will help ensure that your respondents understand your survey requirements and complete it as accurately and fully as possible.

Don't request unneeded personal information

Don't ask leading questions

Don't write questions with double negatives

Don't mix topics in a question

Don't include too many choices

Don't expect too much from your respondents

Don't include two choices that look very similar

Don't include too many neutral opinion choices

Don't leave your respondents hanging

Survey Analysis

When you have gathered enough responses to meet your objective, or your survey deadline has arrived, close the survey and begin analysing your data.

Getting Organised

Choose a method for note taking
If you're taking notes on your computer, use the same title as the survey so that your document is easy to find. You may need a text document and a spreadsheet if you're planning on taking detailed notes.

Count and note the number of surveys that were collected
If you only received a small handful of surveys, you may not receive enough data to meet your objective. You may need to redistribute your survey at another time. Think about alternative methods that will allow you to reach a larger group of people. If you think you received enough completed surveys, include this number in your description when you share the results.

Give each survey a unique identifier number
Numbering the surveys will make it easier on you when you are analysing and comparing the data. Online survey sites may do this for you automatically.

Discard invalid data
Some respondents will undoubtedly skip questions or fill the survey out incorrectly. The responses may also be illegible. You may still be able to use some of the data from these surveys. Here are some reasons to discard data:

Prioritize the data 
Review all of the questions again, and highlight the following:

Analysing the Data

Review the data with your objective in mind
Did you meet your objective? Do you need to do further research to meet your objective?

Take notes
Review each survey individually. Write a note for yourself about any of the responses that were surprising, interesting, useful, controversial, etc. Start thinking about that data that will be interesting or useful for your participants, customers, or audience. Review the surveys again after you've read each one individually. Summarize the results in your own words.

Get a second opinion
You may want to invite a neutral observer to review the results and provide an objective analysis. Those with an understanding of statistics may decide to organise the data in spreadsheets for a detailed analysis.

Create data filters
Filtering allows you to look at data in subsets. You can analyse responses for certain groups, or review overall results next to filtered results. If you used an online survey site, this can usually be done quite easily.

Plan a course of action
Do you need to take any immediate action? What changes could be made over time? Plan a course of action, if you want to make some changes based on the results of your survey.

Sharing the Results of Your Survey

It's up to you which results you choose to present. Depending on the size and scope of your survey, you may not be able to share all of the results. Some results may not be of interest to your audience. Do your best not to introduce a bias by only showing positive results or results that you expected.

Presentation of Results

Write a short description of your survey. Keep in mind that some people who are reviewing the results may not have participated in the survey. Include the title of the survey, as well as some brief information about where and when it was distributed and how many surveys were collected.

Share all of the results
Some online survey sites provide you with graphical visuals that you can share. If you don't have a lot of questions, you can share all of the results. Make sure that you do not include any sensitive or private data.

Share a summary of the results
You may also be able to choose a "summary" option if you are using a survey program or online tool. The system will automatically create a summary of the results that you can share. This is a good option if you think your audience will be more interested in browsing some quick points rather than using your results for their own research.

Chart individual responses
Choose the most interesting or relevant questions and share the results from these questions. Use a visual representation, such as a pie chart or bar graph to present the most interesting or relevant results.

Highlight important comparisons
Are there any interesting or surprising comparisons that you can share based on the survey results? If you choose to include demographic information, be sure that the identity of your survey respondents is kept confidential.

Write a short concluding statement about the survey. Go back to the summary that you wrote after you analysed the data. At this time you may also want to thank the respondents once again for taking part in the survey. You could also leave room for comments. Provide contact information if you are interested in collecting more data related to the topic of your survey.

How to Share Results with your Audience

There are a variety of ways you can share your survey results: