Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Lesson in Survey Writing and Analysis

Aloha Teachers and Learning Enthusiasts!

I am in the middle of a really exciting I-Search project with my students. Instead of assigning a formal research paper (the concept of which is lost without some research background), I am trying to do an I-Search project in which my students produce their own research via a survey or interview and use this information to generate an analysis or start their own blogs. Below, you will find my final report/blog I am showing to my students today as an example and my survey below that (it's not very good). I'd also like to share my favorite new online resource that I use in my classroom:

Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world

Whether you like to keep up on cutting edge ideas or are looking for short informational videos from a variety of experts, this is the site for you (and it's not blocked by the DOE). Enjoy!

TED Video Survey Report

As a teacher, I am constantly looking for new media to engage my students and get them thinking. About 6 months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design), a conference featuring some of the brightest minds in the world who give riveting and engaging presentations on the work that they do around the world. Although the talks range in subject matter from wingsuit jumpers to quantum physicists, one string runs through them all: they are all cutting edge. As a way to begin class, spur discussion, and engine constructed responses in my class, I have shown about 10 -12 different talks to my students. Since we have viewed many talks now, I decided that a student survey assessing what engages them in a TED video was appropriate. I also wanted to give my students an example of a survey so that they would better know how to create their own. The “TED Video Survey” as I called it, separated students by gender and asked them to choose between two videos I showed in the past months: Jane McGonigal: “Gaming can make a better world” and Adora Svitak: “What adults can learn from kids”. The results of this survey varied in a revealing and surprising manner. I found that several of my questions yielded irrelevant information which wasn’t really usable (I have learned much about writing an effective survey) so I didn’t use about half the information given and I reinterpreted an essay or open question. Instead of tracking the content of the open question, I tracked how much a student wrote in order to get an idea whether girls, when given an open question, will write more than boys or vice versa. To better report the findings, I separated the results by class periods giving some information on each body of students to help interpret and analyze this information.

Period 5

Total surveyed: 15
Males: 8
Females: 7

Opinions ran fairly parallel between the sexes in this class. 62% of males enjoyed McGonigal’s talk more than Svitak’s, and 71% of females preferred McGonigal’s with the remainder from both groups giving preference to Svitak. When given an open question on visual aids used in the presentations, 62% of males wrote a sentence or more compared with 85% of females. So far, so good.

Period 6

Total surveyed: 9
Males: 7
Females: 2

This small class made for some interesting statistics. 71% of boys preferred McGonigal’s talk, but neither of the girls surveyed did. 43% of boys wrote a sentence or more when prompted and 100% of girls did, in fact these girls wrote quite a bit about their choices. There is perhaps a pattern emerging.

Period 7

Total surveyed: 28
Males: 10
Females: 18

This is the only class I have in which the girls outnumber the boys. Of the 10 boys surveyed, 30% preferred McGonigal’s talk on the value of gaming while 70% liked Svitak’s talk about the value of listening to children. While the girls mirror the boys’ opinions, the numbers are skewed a bit more. Only 5% or one of the girls preferred McGonigal’s talk and 95% preferred Svitak. 20% of boys wrote a sentence or more and 55% of girls wrote a sentence or more.

So What?

After giving this survey and analyzing the results a bit, I wasn’t sure what I could make of it. Sure, I did learn what type of topic and speaker most of my students preferred, but this information varied a bit by class and I did prove that girls will often write more than boys for an open question, but I basically knew that before. What was most interesting to me as a teacher was how much the opinions varied from class-to-class and how contagious these opinions seemed to be within the class and within a gender group in that class. There seemed to be an opinion tipping point localized or contained within each class independent of the video’s content. In other words, when a certain number of girls liked one speaker, all of them then followed suit. For example, both girls in period 6 preferred Svitak’s talk and 95% or 17 out of 18 in period 7 did as well. The boys seemed to follow suit in period 7 too, with 70% preferring Svitak’s talk.

What value does this have for my instruction? I know now that I don’t have to win over all or even most of my students in order to sway opinion or motivate them. What I need to get is roughly half of them engaged and, for the most part, the rest will follow. However, the more diverse the opinion base, the more challenging and ineffective one or even two modes of instruction shall be. These surveys were given in quiet with no discussion or explanation, so overt peer pressure was not the cause. There seems to be an energy of agreement that pervades a classroom which I can profit by using. For instance, if only about half the students do an assignment or do well on an assessment or are willing to participate in an activity, what I should do instead of bemoaning those who have failed to perform is spotlight that half of the class who jumped in and swam.

To view the videos, go to www.ted.com or follow these links:

Adora Svitak
Jane McGonigal

Below is the survey I gave to my students, I’m sure you will notice several errors in the questions which would make the information difficult to track.

TED Video Survey

1. What is your gender?
Male or Female

2. What grade are you in?
9 10 11 12

3. Which video out of the two you watched did you find most interesting? (circle one)

Jane McGonigal; “Gaming can make a better world.”


Adora Svitak; “What adults can learn from kids.”

4.Out of the two videos you watched pick the one you found most interesting then rate it on a scale of 1-10(1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. On the video that you chose, what visual aid helped you remember the message?

6. Rate on a scale of 1-10, how did you find the video you didn’t choose interesting?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. What would be an interesting topic for you to hear about in a TED video?

8. On the video you didn’t choose, how could you improve it?
A. Visual Aid
B. More humorous
C. More interesting
D. Other _______________
E. All of the Above

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