Building Buy In For Student Surveys

Early Communication around Student Surveys Matters

Panorama surveys offer an easy and scalable way to learn about students’ self-perceptions and how supported students feel. In order to get useful, actionable data, you need students to believe in the process. Here are several strategies that will help you increase understanding and buy-in for the surveys so that you will get high-quality data. 

Teachers and families need to understand the survey so they can help students as they learn about student voice and social emotional learning, which will result in students offering more honest feedback about their experiences.

Unlike family surveys, student and staff surveys often have higher response rates because there is usually set time during the school day that you can block off to use as survey taking time. However, it is still important to follow these steps of building buy-in to ensure that students respond to the survey with careful, thoughtful responses.

General Strategies for Building Buy-In

  1. If applicable, share the importance of the last round of data
    • If you have conducted the measurement in the past, share how the data was used and why it was important. This establishes a virtuous cycle - the more you use the data in ways that people can see that their feedback matters, the more high-quality responses you will get.
  2. Be transparent about purpose and promise feedback
    • Explain what the student data will help you learn, focusing on the areas that community members are likely to be interested in and promise to share those results with them once the survey has been completed.
  3. Leverage relationships
    • As much as possible, have people who are close to the respondents be the ones who recruit people to participate and provide their feedback. For instance, a student survey might work better if it is administered by school counselors or teachers who know the students well rather than by a new principal who is still getting to know the students.
  4. Show how the benefits outweigh the costs
    • Emphasize in specific terms how much will be learned about individual students and the school environment. Also highlight how vast the potential for improvement is while underscoring how minimal the costs are. For instance, “It will take just a couple of minutes for students to complete the SEL survey and we will learn significantly more about how to target interventions with those students.”

Communicate with Students Before the Survey

By communicating with students well before you ask them to respond to the survey, you will give them enough time to ask questions and fully understand what the district is hoping to learn from the survey.

  • Utilize existing communication methods such as online classroom resources, email, and announcements to share information about surveys with students. 
    • Sample Email to Students
      • Dear [student],
        Your school is participating in a program to understand the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and school experience of students, and a critical part of this program is understanding your perspective. 
        On [survey open date], you will receive a unique link to take a survey and share your feedback with your district. The survey will ask you to respond to questions like "[insert sample questions]." You'll be able to take the survey on any device with an internet browser, such as a phone, tablet, or computer.  Please take your time to give honest and thoughtful answers, because your responses will be important in helping us improve your experience at school next year.
        Thank you in advance for participating! If you have questions, please reach out to your teacher or [additional contact email]! They will be able to share more information about what will be on the survey and how your responses will help improve the school. 
      • You also have the opportunity to email your survey directly to students and can provide additional context on the survey program through this email. To learn more about emailing surveys from the Panorama platform, check out this article.
    • Sample Announcement or Social Media Post 
      • Students: We are looking for feedback to help improve your school experience! Click here to read more about the survey and learn how you can share your feedback!
        • Tip: Create a page on your school or district's website with more information about the survey so students can understand what they are being asked! This link can be shared in emails and over social media and is a great resource to support a successful survey-taking. 
  • You may also consider using students' current social and academic groups as a vehicle for sharing information about the survey. One way to do this is to identify student leaders from different populations and ask them to present the survey to their peers.
  • Reinforce that this is a unique opportunity to have school leaders and their teachers really listen to student opinions on how to make the school better. Particularly in the beginning of the school year, there is an opportunity to make changes to improve the student experience in the coming year. 

Communicate with Teachers and Families Before the Survey

Teachers and families are an essential part of students' educational experience, and can be a great resource for administrators hoping to get high student participation in a survey.

  • Notify families about SEL initiatives by sending a letter home with students (explore customizable communication templates here), sending emails, making phone calls, and utilizing existing communication methods to ensure everyone is aware of the survey and its purpose.
  • Notify teachers about the measurement at a staff meeting by outlining the school or district’s strategy for the year (customizable presentation).

Additional Resources

Read this blog post to find out how Mesa Valley (CO) "learned education isn’t black and white. [Mesa believes] a student is most successful when their social, emotional, and academic skills are all working in harmony."

Want to share your district's approach to SEL with your leadership team? Learn more and use our Resource Kit:  Sharing SEL Priorities with Your Team.

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