Student Survey Middle and High

Designing a Survey to Better Connect With Students

What is your preferred shade of colour? Which song do you enjoy listening to the most? At the beginning of the academic year, all of us have participated in some form of “get to know you” survey in which we asked generic questions of this nature. How much thought went into the development of those questions, and how can we make use of the responses from our students?

This past year, as the faculty sponsor of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at my institution, I led efforts to draught guidelines for creating a survey that was more personal and welcoming to a wider range of respondents. The idea is to ask questions that will provide you meaningful and important insights about your learners, and then to utilise that information to inform instruction and strengthen relationships with all of your students. This will give you the best chance of being successful.

As a result of interactions I’ve had with my GSA students, I’ve compiled the following list of dos and don’ts.


1. It is important to ask children what they would want to be called and their preferred pronouns. It is essential to inquire about your kids’ pronouns since doing so demonstrates that you value and respect their individual identities. When we make erroneous judgments about pronouns and gender, we implicitly communicate that outward appearance is the most important factor. In addition, the more frequently we inquire about pronouns, the more widespread the behaviour eventually becomes.

Asking pupils what they prefer to be called is another crucial step in the education process. It’s common for some students, particularly transgender students, to use a name other than the one that’s listed on their official documentation, such as the one that appears on your roster. Respect this by posing the question on the very first day.

Make sure that their name and the appropriate pronouns are used. If you find that you have made an error, you should apologise and then put things right.

2. Don’t make a question about pronouns into a multiple-choice test and demand a response to it. If you make your pupils pick from a predetermined list of pronouns, you run the risk of excluding one or more of them. The use of an option labelled “other” does not provide a complete solution to the issue because it figuratively “others” students who do not feel themselves represented in the options. In addition, there is a possibility that some kids are not yet prepared to open up to you. Should this be the case, it’s possible that they’d rather not offer any pronouns at all. You should encourage them to share, but you should not push them to disclose any information that they do not feel comfortable doing so.

3. Provide your own responses to the questions. It is a terrific approach to highlight your own vulnerabilities and to model how the questions should be answered if you take the time to answer the survey questions yourself and include them right in the survey itself. For instance, you could write, “I refer to her or she in my sentences. What pronouns do you use?” Students will develop a sense of familiarity with you, and even if they are unfamiliar with pronouns, they will have a sense of the kinds of replies you anticipate from them.

4. Don’t pry by asking questions that you wouldn’t want the other person to respond to yourself. It is essential to inquire about the students’ names and pronouns, but it is likely not necessary for you to be aware of additional precise data in order to instruct your pupils. For instance, it is highly unlikely that you will require knowledge of a student’s sexual orientation or relationship status.

5. In order to better understand the students’ beliefs, values, and goals, you should make it a point to ask them questions. You can gain a glimpse into the items that your pupils focus the majority of their mental energy on by asking them one straightforward question. “When you got out of bed this morning, what was the first thing that went through your mind?” This question is meant to be frivolous, but it has the potential to provide useful insight into the things that are truly important to your learners.

6. Don’t limit yourself to asking only serious inquiries. The GSA advised me that instructors should try to incorporate some “fun” questions into their lessons. Taking a poll that focuses entirely on one’s identity can be mentally draining, which is especially true on the first day of school. Maintain a lighthearted atmosphere by asking some questions about the other person’s preferences, personality, and interests. This will help you get to know them better.

7. Make sure you ask questions that will assist you in comprehending how they learn. Every educator should make it a priority to gather information about their students’ learning, particularly if they wish to differentiate their instruction effectively. On the other hand, responding to queries on their education may either be uninteresting or difficult for pupils. Instruct the students to think about specific learning experiences they have had by posing these questions in a way that is both concrete and precise.

My preferred approach to posing this inquiry is to inquire as follows: “What was the most recent item you learnt outside of the classroom, and how did you go about learning it?” This method of phrasing it allows students the opportunity to contribute something about themselves, and it gives you insight into the ways in which they find the most success in learning.

8. Make it possible for pupils to share more personal information with you if they so desire by giving them space to do so. The students will be able to give you with a wide variety of additional information if you end the conversation with a question like “Is there anything else that I need to know in order to support you?” (Is there anything more that I need to know in order to support you?) By wording the question in a general way, you open up the discourse to all learners, and they are able to answer with whatever requirements are most pressing to them on a personal level, regardless of how society may categorise them.

9. Don’t: Make it a requirement that every query has an answer. Many of the students I’ve worked with, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+, have shared with me that they’ve been through traumatic experiences, particularly ones that are connected to who they are as a person. There’s a chance that you might ask a question on your survey that makes people anxious by accident. Give the pupils the chance to react, and if they decide not to, don’t press them for an answer.

10. Before the students leave, confirm to them that you have read the survey. It is important to take the time to both express gratitude to each student for their participation in the survey and to provide feedback on something that they have written.

11. Do not disregard their responses in any way. Adults have a tendency to look down on seemingly little aspects of life, such as a person’s “favourite song” or “nickname.” These seemingly little aspects of our kids’ lives might, nevertheless, be fundamental to their sense of self. Make consistent contact with your kids through the use of these “small” things.

Even more importantly, we cannot dismiss significant issues such as the use of pronouns. When we incorrectly identify the gender of our students, not only do we rob them of their individuality, but we also immediately lose the opportunity to fully support them. If a student lists pronouns that you wouldn’t normally associate with them, you must not under any circumstances infer that they are attempting to be humorous. Students seldom ever make jokes about this topic. If a student writes pronouns that are unexpected, it is possible that the student has never had their pronouns requested from them in the past.