Previously, when I have written about how to have a successful survey administration, I’ve focused on what can be done before and during an administration in order to ensure the best possible data. Now that many of you have your 2010-11 HERI Faculty Survey results in hand, and the 2011 YFCY and CSS results are set to be released soon, I think it’s also important to think about what actions can be taken after the survey has closed.
Make Meaning of the Data-Circle back to the same constituencies you talked with at the beginning of the survey administration. Start by giving them the results for the topics and issues they mentioned prior to survey administration. Don’t be afraid to provide both time and space for people to digest and discuss the results. A few general questions can get people on campus talking not just to you, but with each other. I often start out with questions like: Are these results what we were expecting? Why do you think the results look like this? What other information on this issue do we already have that we could bring to bear? What other information do we need to collect? What are the next steps? What other questions come up? Who else on campus needs to see this?)
Link Results to Other Data Sources-Do the results of the survey corroborate findings from other surveys or assessments? You can do more sophisticated analyses if the results are linked to registrar’s data or presented with results from focus groups of students or examples of student work.
Provide Focused Summaries of Results– Rather than doing a “data dump” designed to summarize the whole survey so you can be done with it and move on to the next thing, think of the sharing the results as a continual conversation about your institution. Many institutions get far more utility out of survey results when they package results around an issue and provide multiple shorter, focused reports designed to open a dialog around the data. Smaller, well-focused summaries give people the time and space to make sense of the results, and to take action to improve.
Publicize the Results on Campus Widely-Students continue to participate in surveys if they know the results are used and valued by the campus. If findings are made available to them, and they can point to changes that have occurred as a result of what the campus has learned, it sends a powerful message. Besides posting reports and findings on websites and in assessment reports, many institutions have great luck having administrators talk about selected findings that matter to them. If during Freshman Orientation, an administrator cited the number of first years who indicated they used the writing center during their first year, and that those who did use support centers “frequently” during their first year were more likely to be satisfied with their college experience, or that students who volunteered during their first year were more likely to experience a sense of belonging on campus, then students know that the results of the survey they just completed are important and useful to faculty and administrators on campus, and used to make improvements to the institution.