The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

1.2 Top Tips: key ideas as to good practice

  • The purpose of questionnaires is to support teachers in making improvements in teaching and learning.
    • Questionnaires are not a mechanism for assessing the performance of members of staff.
    • Departments should not compare scores across staff.
  • Teachers should receive some kind of instruction in how to interpret and respond to questionnaire responses.
  • Open and closed questions elicit different kinds of information and most questionnaires should contain both.
    • Closed questions are efficient mechanisms for gleaning information about a range of specific issues.
    • Open questions allow students the freedom to discuss what matters most to them and to elaborate on answers provided to closed questions.
    • It may be useful to comprise questionnaires of two separate and detachable sections – for example, two A4 sheets. The first contains closed and ranked questions and is submitted anonymously; the second contains open questions and students are requested to identify themselves with these responses.
  • There is nothing wrong with ranked questions that elicit responses on an ordered scale – for example, from 1 to 5 – although they have to be used appropriately.
    • In analysing them the useful statistics are the proportion of respondents responding in each category.
    • Constructing average scores (i.e. averaging the scores for each question across all respondents) is not a sound statistical approach.
    • Computing single scores from a pool of questions is fraught with difficulties and can only work in an extremely well-designed questionnaire with a precise objective used in the right way.
  • Before designing the questionnaire, think carefully about what kinds of information might be useful – too many questionnaires contain questions that are inappropriate and this is frustrating to the respondents.
  • On the questionnaire, group questions into themes – this makes it more comprehensible and attractive to respondents. Questions can be grouped under the following key themes (these are discussed in more depth in section 3.1):
    • overall quality indicators;
    • open questions;
    • student behaviour and status;
    • the module;
    • skills of the lecturer;
    • reading and facilities;
    • contribution to learning.
  • Make the questionnaire attractive – this will increase the rate and quality of response.
  • When analysing questionnaire responses, do not read too much into the results.