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Survey design

Aug 12, 2015

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  1. 1. 159 C H A P T E R 8 Survey Research Research Question: How Can We Get a National Picture of K12 Math and Science Teaching? Chapter Contents S cience and mathematics education have assumed growing importance in an age of ubiquitous computers and constant technological innovation. The performance of U.S. students on math and science tests has been criticized in comparison to other countries (Hanushek, Peterson, & Woessmann,2010;Provasnik,Gonzales,&Miller,2009),andtherehasbeenapushforimprovement in math and science teaching. But what does math and science instruction in U.S. schools actually look like? What materials are used? What methods are common? To answer this question, the National Science Foundationcommissionedthe2000NationalSurveyofScienceandMathematicsEducation(2000National Survey).Thesurveygathereddataonteacherbackgroundandexperience,curriculumandinstruction,and theavailabilityanduseofinstructionalresources(Weiss,Banilower,McMahon,&Smith,2001). In this chapter, we use the 2000 National Survey and other examples to illustrate key features of survey research. You will learn about the challenges of designing a survey, some basic rules of question construc- tion,andthewaysinwhichsurveyscanbeadministered.Thisisfollowedbyissuesofsurveydesignrelatedto diverseschoolpopulationsandadiscussionofethicalissuessurroundingsurveys.Bythechaptersend,you shouldbewellonyourwaytobecominganinformedconsumerofsurveyreportsandaknowledgeabledevel- operofsurveydesigns. Why Is Survey Research So Popular? Errors in Survey Research Questionnaire Design Writing Questions Survey Design Alternatives Combining Methods Survey Research Design in a Diverse Society Ethical Issues in Survey Research
  2. 2. Part II Research Design and Data Collection160 22 Why Is Survey Research So Popular? Survey research involves the collection of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions. The National Science Foundation turned to survey research for the 2000 National Survey because it is an efficient method for systematically collecting data from a broad spectrum of individuals and educational settings. As you probably have observed, a great many researchers choose this method of data collection. In fact, surveys have become such a vital part of our social fabric that we cannot assess much of what we read in the newspaper or see on TV without having some understanding ofsurveyresearch. Surveyresearchowesitscontinuingpopularitytoitsversatility,efficiency,andgeneralizability.Firstand foremostistheversatilityofsurveymethods.Researchershaveusedsurveymethodstoinvestigateareasof education as diverse as school desegregation, academic achievement, teaching practice, and leadership. Althoughasurveyisnottheidealmethodforlearningabouteveryeducationalprocess,awell-designedsurvey canenhanceourunderstandingofjustaboutanyeducationalissue.The2000NationalSurveycoveredarange oftopicsaboutmathandscienceteaching,andthereishardlyanyothertopicofinteresttoeducatorsthathas notbeenstudiedatsometimewithsurveymethods. Surveysareefficientinthatmanyvariablescanbemeasuredwithoutsubstantiallyincreasingthetimeor cost.Surveydatacanbecollectedfrommanypeopleatrelativelylowcostand,dependingonthesurveydesign, relativelyquickly. Survey methods lend themselves to probability sampling from large populations. Thus, survey research is very appealing when sample generalizability is a central research goal. In fact, survey research is often the only means available for developing a representative picture of the attitudes and characteris- tics of a large population. To gather a representative national picture of math and science instruction, the 2000NationalSurveysampled5,765scienceandmathematicsteachersacrosstheUnitedStates(Weiss etal.,2001). Survey responses from these teachers produced a unique, national data set covering science and mathematics course offerings and enrollments; teacher qualifications; textbook usage; instructional techniques; and use of science and mathematics facilities and equipment (Weiss et al., 2001, p. 2). A mixture of methods was used, including interviews and questionnaires of teachers, program directors, and principals as well as on-site observations in both math and science class- rooms. The data collected allowed Horizon Research, the firm that carried out the survey, to investigate topics such as the impact of professional development on math and science teaching (Rosenberg, Heck, & Banilower, 2005), the extent to which recommended reforms have actually been implemented (Smith, Banilower, McMahon, & Weiss, 2002), leadership issues, and the change pro- cess at the school level (Weiss et al., 2001). As a result, we know much more about how academic preparation and professional development influence math and science instruction, what teaching techniques and textbooks are being used, and how much prog- ress has been made toward reform. Surveysalsoarethemethodofchoicewhencross-populationgeneralizabilityisakeyconcernbecause theyallowarangeofeducationalcontextsandsubgroupstobesampled.Theconsistencyofrelationshipscan then be examined across the various subgroups. The 2000 National Survey sampled urban, suburban, and ruralteachersK12andacrosssubdisciplinessuchasearthscience,chemistry,biology,andphysics(Weiss etal.,2001). Want to Know More? You can access reports and survey instruments of the 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics at http://2000survey.horizon- research.com/.
  3. 3. Chapter 8Survey Research 161 22 Errors in Survey Research Itmightbesaidthatsurveysaretooeasytoconduct.Organizationsandindividualsoftendecidethatasurvey willhelptosolvesomeimportantproblembecauseitseemssoeasytoprepareaformwithsomequestionsand senditout.Butwithoutcarefulattentiontosampling,measurement,andoverallsurveydesign,theeffortis likely to be a flop. Such flops are too common for comfort, and the responsible survey researcher must take thetimetodesignsurveysproperlyandtoconvincesponsoringorganizationsthatthistimeisworththeeffort (Turner&Martin,1984,p.68). Forasurveytosucceed,itmustminimizetheriskoftwotypesoferror:poormeasurementofcasesthat aresurveyed(errorsofobservation)andomissionofcasesthatshouldbesurveyed(errorsofnonobservation) (Groves, 1989). Potential problems that can lead to errors of observation stem from the way questions are written,thecharacteristicsoftherespondentswhoanswerthequestions,thewayquestionsarepresentedin questionnaires,andtheinterviewersusedtoaskthequestions.Thepotentialmeasurementerrorsthatsurvey researchersconfrontindesigningquestionsandquestionnairesaresummarizedinExhibit8.1;wediscuss eachofthesesourcesoferrorthroughoutthechapter. Therearethreesourcesoferrorsofnonobservation: Coverageofthepopulationcanbeinadequateduetoapoorsamplingframe. Theprocessofrandomsamplingcanresultinsamplingerrordifferencesbetweenthecharacteris- ticsofthesamplemembersandthepopulationthatariseduetochance. Nonresponse can distort the sample when individuals refuse to respond or cannot be contacted. Nonresponsetospecificquestionscandistortthegeneralizabilityoftheresponsestothosequestions. Weconsideredtheimportanceofagoodsamplingframeandtheproceduresforestimatingandreducing samplingerrorinChapter5;weonlyaddafewmorepointshere.Wefocusmoreattentioninthischapteron proceduresforreducingnonresponseinsurveys,anincreasingconcern. The next two sections focus on principles, including question writing, for developing a well-designed survey.Presentingclearandinterestingquestionsinawell-organizedquestionnairewillhelptoreducemea- surementerrorbyencouragingrespondentstoanswerquestionscarefullyandtotakeseriouslytherequestto participateinthesurvey. 22 Questionnaire Design Surveyquestionsareansweredaspartofaquestionnaire(orinterviewschedule, as it is sometimes called in interview-based studies). The context created by the questionnairehasamajorimpactonhowindividualquestionsareinterpretedand answered.Asaresult,surveyresearchersmustcarefullydesignthequestionnaireas wellasindividualquestions.Thereisnopreciseformulaforawell-designedques- tionnaire.Nonetheless,somekeyprinciplesshouldguidethedesignofanyquestion- naire,andsomesystematicproceduresshouldbeconsideredforrefiningit. Questionnaire: A survey instrument containing the questions in a self- administered survey. Interview schedule: A survey instrument containing the questions asked by the interviewer in an in-person or phone survey.
  4. 4. Part II Research Design and Data Collection162 Exhibit 8.1 Measurement Errors Associated With Surveys Question Wording: Does the question have a consistent meaning to respondents? Problems can occur with Lengthy wording Words are unnecessarily long and complicated. Length of question Question is unnecessarily long. Lack of specificity Question does not specify the desired information. Lack of frame of reference Question does not specify what reference comparisons should be made to. Vague language Words and phrases can have different meanings to respondents. Double negatives Question uses two or more negative phrases. Double barreled Question actually asks two or more questions. Using jargon and initials Phrasing uses professional or academic discipline-specific terms. Leading questions Question uses phrasing meant to bias the response. Cultural differences in meaning Phrases or words have different meanings to different population subgroups. Respondent Characteristics: Characteristics of respondents may produce inaccurate answers. These include Memory recall Problems remembering events or details about events. Telescoping Remembering events as happening more recently than when they really occurred. Agreement or acquiescence bias Tendency for respondents to agree. Social desirability Tendency to want to appear in a positive light and therefore providing the desirable response. Floaters Respondents who choose a substantive answer when they really do not know. Fence-sitters People who see themselves as being