Why Student Voice Surveys Matter For The Education Industry

Philip Cleave
September 6, 2023
Students completing their student voice surveys

From the moment we first start learning to write at primary school, right through to our experiences of secondary school, college and university. Whatever educational attainment level we reach, the quality of education and the wider experiences we receive will go a long way towards influencing how well we perform and progress in life. So, it’s vital that we do everything we can to continually drive-up education standards.

Fortunately, in recent years the use of student feedback has had an increasingly important role to play in helping to maintain these standards. And the importance of this has grown across all areas of education, particularly at the higher education level, where the growth of surveys has become instrumental to informing decision-making and policies.

From the Annual Induction Survey, the Student Satisfaction and Engagement survey and the Student Association Survey to The National Students Survey (NSS), and more. The proliferation of surveys both at an institutional and student level has been increasingly categorized under the umbrella of ‘student voice surveys’, as students have become more influential in impacting the quality of education and experiences they receive.

However, if we’re to better understand the importance of student voice surveys, we need to know more about exactly what these types of surveys are and why the student voice matters, which we will go on to look at next.

What are student voice surveys?

Probably the best way to answer this is to break this phrase down.

If we look at the student voice first, we’re essentially talking about a concept where students are given a greater role and voice in influencing the decisions that are taken concerning the quality of their education and the experiences they receive as a student.

The student voice is all about empowering students to help shape their education and ensure that their views are always heard.

From student led campaigns and research to student councils, representative bodies and surveys. There are many channels that students and the institutions where they study can use to ensure that their voices are heard. However, the student voice survey is among the best of these.

Whether it’s features to quickly create and distribute surveys, to tools to identify and interpret crucial trends, collaborate with others and report on findings. The speed, functionality and versality of surveys makes them one of the most effective tools for higher education institution (HEIs) to gather student feedback and respond to their needs.

At this point, it’s also important to mention that besides the institutions themselves, student surveys are a crucial tool for students in their studies, helping them to achieve their educational goals. Whether it’s for information to support a particular argument as part of an undergraduate’s dissertation, or the crucial data that a post-graduate student needs to support their master’s thesis or doctorate. Student surveys are an essential tool at any level of higher education.

Why the student voice matters

Nurturing the student voice is much more than just simply giving students a greater say in the decisions that affect their education and well-being.

In fact, when you give students a greater voice, it can lead to a much wider set of benefits that include:

Increased student engagement and motivation

When students feel more invested and involved in what’s going on around them, they’re likely to feel more engaged and motivated in their studies too.

More enthused students are also more likely to take increased ownership of their learning, with the additional effort they exert, helping to further improve their academic performance.

It’s easier to see what needs improving

Whether it’s the standard of your teaching or the quality of experiences you’re delivering for students and more. If you’re regularly surveying your students, you can quickly identify areas that your students are happy or unhappy about and set about improving those areas of greatest concern to them.

Greater trust and increased student confidence

Giving students a greater voice through the surveys you send them can also help to increase their trust in your institution, particularly if you act on their feedback and develop more effective and inclusive educational practices as a result.

All of these types of actions help breed greater confidence in you as an institution. And when students start to feel more confident, it also helps them in their studies.

Helps keep HEIs growing and successful

Given how much HEIs rely on the performance of their students to maintain funding and attract more students, it’s essential for them to keep students happy and engaged.

Fortunately, if they can give students a strong voice, and act on their concerns, it will aid the growth of HEIs and help them to become more successful.

Challenges and considerations when implementing student voice surveys

Having read through the benefits of giving students a greater voice, I’m sure many of you will be keen to crack on with a survey, so you can gather and analyze your students’ feedback.

However, there are a number of challenges to think about before issuing your student voice survey, if you’re to gain the greatest benefits from its implementation:

Ensure the anonymity and confidentiality of survey respondents

Whatever survey you’re creating, if you’re to gain the greatest value from it you need to ensure your survey response rate is as good as it can be. And that means ensuring as many survey recipients as possible are confident about taking it.

With the proliferation of digital channels, a growing number of people have become concerned about the protection of their personal identifiable information (PII), such as their name, email address, social security number, street address and more. So, the more PII they are required to reveal in order to subscribe to or participate in something such as an online survey, the more hesitant they’re likely to be.

Consequently, if you can make your survey anonymous and eliminate any potential for identifying values in responses to be linked to a participant, recipients will be more likely to take your survey.

The good thing about making your survey anonymous is that not only does your response rate improve, but the confidence it instills encourages more people to be more honest in their answers. And this is important, as the more honest your feedback, the more quality data you’ll have with which to make decisions moving forward.

For more in-depth detail about why you should consider making your surveys anonymous, you might like to read Benefits of anonymous surveys.

Minimize the likelihood of bias creeping into your survey

Ultimately, we either carry out surveys to test out a hypothesis or better understand an audience we’re targeting, so we can take future actions based on their feedback that will better meet their needs. However, we can only do this effectively if the data we get back accurately reflects their views, which is where the issue of bias can cause some challenges.

Whether it’s the bias of those creating a survey or the preconceived opinions of those taking it, there are many types of bias that can harm the validity of your research, and risk leaving you with inaccurate or unrepresentative data that you’re unable to do anything useful with.

From sampling bias to response bias and more. You need to know how to identify and reduce bias in your surveys, if you’re to ensure your data is valid and reliable moving forward.

For a more detailed breakdown of the types of survey bias you need to be aware of, you might like to take a look at Survey bias: knowing the different types you need to avoid.

Consider the logistical elements of implementing a survey

While we’ve already talked about the importance of maximizing your responses, as too few responses can potentially harm the validity and reliability of your results, you also need to consider how some of the logistical elements can affect this. Here we’re talking about issues such as the length of your survey, the frequency with which you send them and your choice of distribution method.

It might sound obvious, but the length of your survey can make a real difference to how many respondents go on to complete your survey. Generally, the shorter it is, the more likely people will go on to complete it. And while you might have a lot of questions you want to run past your students, you would be better off sending them two smaller surveys one after the other, rather than a single longer one, if you want their completed response.

Similarly, the frequency with which you issue surveys to your students can be a factor in whether they choose to respond or not. If you send them too often, you’ll risk respondent burn out and a much lower response to any future surveys you issue.

Finally, your choice of survey distribution method can impact your survey response rate. From email, weblinks and in-app channels to SMS, QR codes, offline, social media and more. With a growing range of survey distribution channels, the options available for students to access and complete your survey is growing all the time. So, it can be a case of trying out a range of options with your students, to see which distribution channels they prefer the most.

For more on some of these logistical challenges you might face, you might like to read The Best Time to Send a Survey.

Concluding thoughts

We hope you found this blog interesting, and it’s given you a fuller appreciation of why every student’s voice matters and how collecting their feedback through surveys can benefit both educational institutions and the wider industry.

Given how important the performance of students is to HEIs, in helping them to obtain funding and attract more students, it pays to keep them happy and engaged. Yet, you’ll only achieve that if you can ensure they’re always included and heard, and that starts with collecting their feedback.

Next time...

Having defined what student voice surveys are, why the student voice matters and some of the challenges of implementing surveys, in part 2, we’ll explore the wider education industry with example areas that educators can survey in schools, colleges and universities. Stay tuned.

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