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Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning Surveys

Using Surveys for Program Assessment at WSU

Surveys can provide feedback from students about their experiences, motivation, or perceptions of learning and give students an opportunity to “weigh in” on their undergraduate experiences. Depending on the program, what feedback is needed/desired from students may vary. Questions may include those about curriculum, faculty, offices and services, social opportunities, and career preparation.

Examples of common foci for student surveys include:

  • Whole student experience – Many programs want holistic feedback from their students. These surveys include questions about curriculum, learning, advising, student services, and students’ future plans, as well as general overall questions. While these surveys can provide programs with a full understanding of their students’ experiences in their program, it can be challenging to get adequate response rates.
  • Curriculum and learning – Surveys can also focus on curriculum and student learning. Questions in these types of surveys emphasize student progress on learning outcomes and perceptions about the set of courses that they took. They can address student perceptions about gaps or redundancies in the curriculum, and ask students about courses that they perceive as being helpful in preparing them for their intended careers. These types of surveys are not meant to replace or duplicate course evaluations. Rather, they allow students to reflect on their curriculum as a whole.
  • General/Basic – General or basic surveys can be short (1-5 questions). Short exit surveys can be useful for programs, because they can be completed as part of a regularly scheduled meeting (e.g., in class, as part of an advising appointment, etc.). Questions tend to be broad and ask students for feedback on their overall experiences, or future plans (e.g., work or graduate school). Results from these types of surveys may show programs major “red flags,” or areas that need further attention. Because of their brevity, they generally do not provide information about specific program initiatives or areas of focus.
  • Advising and student services – Programs often want to gather information about how advising and student services are working for students. Questions from these types of surveys focus on student satisfaction with these services and can be either broad or specific (i.e., students provide feedback on particular advisors).

However, some assessment questions can be better addressed using a focus group than a survey. When to use a survey or a focus group includes these considerations:

PurposesSurveyFocus Group
To understand what, how often, to what extentX
To understand how or whyX
To get information from many people (100+)X
To test a new ideaX
To get feedback on a new ideaX
To contextualize survey findingsX
*Adapted from University of Hawai'i at Manoa Assessment Office

Resources for Surveys

ATL works with undergraduate programs to develop and use online surveys, such as senior exit surveys, as part of program assessment. Contact us for more information.

Program Spotlights Related to Surveys

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Every two years, WSU participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to help assess senior and first-year student engagement in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and development. First piloted with WSU’s 2014 & 2015 NSSE administrations, ATL in collaboration with Institutional Research, worked to disaggregate results by major for undergraduate academic degree programs and colleges, focusing on responses from seniors, to provide information about the student perspective to help continually improve the learning experience for students (contact ATL for more information about these disaggregated NSSE results for academic programs).

In addition, NSSE provides participating institutions with a variety of institution- and campus-level reports. WSU’s current and historic institution-wide NSSE results are available on the Institutional Research NSSE survey webpage. Further, questions on the NSSE survey provide indirect evidence of student learning on WSU’s Learning Goals of Undergraduate Education to support UCORE Assessment. For more general information about NSSE at WSU, see WSU’s NSSE webpage.

Qualtrics Survey Software

A system-wide site license for Qualtrics, WSU’s preferred survey tool, is available to all WSU faculty, staff and students, as recommended by a work group convened by the Provost’s Office. More information about using Qualtrics at WSU is located at WSU’s Surveys website.