Increasing Survey Response in Your District—Understand Motivations

The critical ingredient for a successful survey project is a motivated group of parents and students.  There are some parents who are naturally motivated to answer a survey and eager to share their opinions.  Others are less motivated or less interested.  So how do you motivate ALL parents and students to participate in your survey?  In this first of a series of posts, I will discuss a way to think about this motivation problem.

I.  Determine the Cost vs. the Benefit

The study of human motivation has a long history in the fields of psychology and economics.  One way of looking at motivation is the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA).  Your school district may already undergo a careful, deliberate process of examining the costs and the expected benefits of a course of action.

Most districts make decisions by comparing costs and anticipating benefits.   Costs are usually identified as money, time and other material or human resources.  Benefits are generally measured as improved student achievement and reputation.  After careful planning, school districts should launch a survey when the anticipated benefits are greater than the costs.

II.  Understand Individual Decisions

We can also use CBA to understand decisions made by individuals.  While a person may or may not deliberately compare costs and benefits, his or her views of costs and benefits may alter that person’s behavior and even increase motivation.

How can you specifically alter the CBA framework so it can be applied to understanding a parent’s motivation to answer your survey? Read my next post!

Best Practices for Communications With Public School Parents

Last spring K12 Insight partnered with the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) to conduct a nationwide survey.  The primary focus was to learn more about how school districts are perceived by their communities and to understand the best way for school districts to communicate with parents and students.  The scope of this project was impressive!  Over 50 districts in 22 states participated, more than a quarter of a million invitations were delivered, and over 43,000 responses have been recorded!

Not surprisingly, all parents prefer to receive email directly from the district/school.  What was surprising is that parents do NOT like social media to be the primary communication method.  Twitter, Facebook and other social media ranked 15th out of 18 items on a list of possible communication outlets. This survey proves that school-district leaders who provide genuine, ongoing communication, are held in higher esteem and serve as the “go-to resource” for information.

K12 Insight would like to thank our colleagues from NSPRA.

To read the full report, click here

To go to the NSPRA site, click here

Surveys and Trust Capital

If you have read any books about survival, you might recall the difference between those who survive when lost in the woods and those who don’t.  As it turns out, the secret to survival is less physical stamina, and more mental strength and temperament.

When people are lost, experts tell us, the worst thing they can do is become desperate and start wasting their limited resources on useless, counter-productive activity. Without too much exaggeration, I can say I have seen this desperation in public education, with one particular pattern catching my attention. Faced with poor prospects in an upcoming decision, some administrators resort to a desperate act of launching a survey.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I realize there’s a lot of good in surveys. They get people involved and give legitimacy to certain positions. Trouble is, something as powerful and complex as a survey in a public school setting requires a serious understanding of the art and science of surveying. Otherwise, it might get mishandled, leaving you worse off than you were to begin with.

In future posts I will share the reasons why school district surveys must be strategically planned and managed with expertise and finesse. At their best, surveys are worth much more than just the dataset they create. They can be the foundation of building trust with the public, your staff, parents and students.

Trust is the bedrock of our public education system. Let’s nurture it and keep increasing its reserves.