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Student perception surveys: a comprehensive guide

Last updated

28 June 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

Student perception surveys are vital tools in modern education. They offer insights directly from the people at the heart of learning—the students themselves.

In this article, we’ll define what student perception entails and explore the purpose and structure of student perception surveys. You’ll also find useful guidelines on how to effectively conduct these surveys and understand their significant applications in enhancing educational practices and outcomes.

What is a student perception survey?

Effective teaching is the foundation of learning. Student input and feedback around their learning experiences is critical to deliver continuous course improvement.

A student perception or feedback survey is a student-level tool used to collect insights and opinions directly from students. Educational institutions can use them to understand how students interact with their environment and overall learning experience.

The survey results allow you to better understand students’ engagement, interest, and satisfaction levels. You can use the data to make informed decisions that make the institution a more enjoyable place to be and improve the quality of course delivery.

What is student perception?

Student perception describes how students experience and interpret their school experiences.

The two factors below influence student perception:

Beliefs and expectations

Before joining the school, students and their parents may have preconceived expectations about what their learning and overall school experiences may entail. These expectations may be influenced by the following:

  • What they hear on the news

  • Family and friends

  • Online reviews

  • Personal and cultural beliefs

Student experience

Students’ and parents’ interactions with a learning institution mold their experiences.

Student experience starts from the first time they engage in conversations with the learning institution and grows through all interactions during and after enrollment . This can include relationships with teachers, fellow students, administrators, and support staff inside and outside the school.

Student experience includes different elements—quality of education, resources, and the overall school atmosphere, to mention a few.

Here’s why a good student experience is important:

  • Promoting academic success

  • Boosting personal development

  • Promoting mental well-being

  • Facilitating alumni engagement

Why does student perception matter?

The learning environment profoundly affects a student’s educational experiences and learning outcomes. It determines what, why, and how students learn. It also impacts their enthusiasm and how effectively they learn.

Generally, students who perceive the educational climate positively achieve better academic outcomes than those who perceive it unfavorably.

Student perception allows educators and those in management to get a clear view of students’ emotions and intentions. The operational and administrative data gathered from the surveys helps identify vital areas that can lead to better student outcomes.

You can tailor survey questions to collect information about student perceptions in areas such as:

  • Student–teacher interactions

  • The classroom atmosphere

  • Students’ relationship with their peers

  • Personal well-being

  • Campus resources

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion

  • The institution’s safety

Types of student perception surveys

Here are some common types of student perception surveys:

School climate surveys

School climate surveys are scientific measures that look into various significant aspects of the learning environment.

Their primary objective is to provide a true picture of the strengths and weaknesses of different school programs and initiatives. They cover areas such as student learning, teacher involvement, absenteeism, and suspension.

Substance abuse surveys

These surveys assess the use of drugs and alcohol inside and outside the learning institution. The questionnaire also aims to understand factors influencing a student’s decision to engage or not engage in these behaviors.

Mental health surveys

These questionnaires may measure things like the prevalence of bullying in school and how effectively the school tackles it.

Understanding what’s going on can help school staff implement the appropriate response strategies.

How to conduct a student perception survey

Follow these steps to create a compelling student perception survey:

Plan the survey

The planning phase is the most important because it determines the survey’s outcome.

Make sure your purpose and objectives are clear. Determine the following:

  • Your target group

  • When you will survey them

  • The tools you will use to analyze the results

  • The channels you will use to communicate the responses

  • Who you want to share the outcomes with

Design the survey

You don’t have to be a professional to create a great survey. However, by implementing a few survey best practices, you can rest assured you are collecting the best data possible.

Key best practices include the following:

  • Keep your survey short and simple.

  • Avoid ambiguous questions.

  • Focus on a single subject per question.

  • Avoid leading questions that may create bias.

  • Scales (such as Likert scales) will provide more sensitive, insightful responses versus yes/no answers.

  • Ensure your questions and topic areas are appropriate for the age groups you are surveying.

  • Always test your survey.

Administer the survey

This step involves sending out the survey and gathering responses.

An online survey is the most flexible method as it allows students to complete it on their own time using their cell phone or computer. Send an email inviting the students to take the survey and give them about two weeks to complete.

Send reminders to those who still need to complete the survey to increase participation. Only do this once or twice to avoid harassing participants.

Keep in mind that turnout may not always be as high as you want. When this happens, you can opt for a different outreach strategy, such as offering a small incentive for completion (entry into a prize draw, for example).

Share the survey findings

You can share findings from your survey using different methods, such as:

  • Reports

  • Dashboards

  • Presentations/sharing sessions

Act on your findings

When you have collected the data and analyzed it, it’s time to act on the findings.

Creating an action plan shows students you heard them and are willing to take the proper steps to improve their experiences. You should prioritize the most urgent issues—those that affect the majority of the students and have the highest impact on engagement.

Track your new plan’s progress and provide regular updates. Readministering the perception survey at a later date to track if you are making the changes your students want to see can also help.

What should a student perception survey include?

Here are some of the question types your student perception survey might include:

Close-ended questions

These questions ask respondents to select from a specific set of predefined answers, such as “yes” or “no.” They collect quantitative data from the students, which schools can use to track change progressively and compare answers between different target groups.

They can take different forms, such as multiple-choice and Likert scale.

Likert scale

This survey instrument comprises a five or seven-point satisfaction scale that stretches from one extreme to the other. It measures respondents’ attitudes and opinions with a higher degree of nuance than a straightforward “yes” or “no.”

Likert scales are some of the most reliable and efficient ways to measure respondents’ perceptions, behaviors, and opinions.

Multiple choice

Multiple-choice questions are fundamental tools for gathering data via surveys. They usually involve asking a question and inviting the respondent to select one or multiple answers from a predetermined list.

Due to their versatile and intuitive nature, multiple-choice questions generate structured data that’s easy to analyze.

Open-ended questions

These are free-form questions that aren’t restricted to simple one-word answers. Respondents answer in an open-text format according to their understanding and feelings. They are free to answer in as much or as little detail as they wish.

Open-ended questions generate feedback using the respondents’ own words instead of forcing them to choose from a predetermined list (like multiple-choice responses). This means researcher bias is much less likely to affect the answers.

Examples of student perception survey questions

Below, you’ll find examples of survey questions you can use to evaluate academic feedback.

Survey questions about a student’s class

The following are some questions you might ask students about their class:

  1. Which are your favorite activities in the classroom?

  2. Given the opportunity, what changes would you like to see?

  3. How would you rate your peers in terms of their supportiveness?

  4. What inspires you to excel academically?

  5. How would you rate the sports resources available to your class?

Student perception survey questions about the instructor

Teacher feedback is also important for the school. Here are some questions you may include in the survey:

  1. In terms of subject matter/content delivery, rate your teacher on a scale of 0–10.

  2. Rate how much your instructor encourages you to excel.

  3. Rate how welcoming your teacher makes the classroom.

  4. Rate how enthusiastic your teacher seems when teaching your class.

  5. Rate your levels of participation in this class.

  6. Rate how respectful your teacher is toward students in the class.

How can you use results to make improvements?

Make your data work for you by following these steps:

Analyze and synthesize your data

The process of carrying out a successful student perception survey doesn’t end after data collection. In fact, this is when one of the most essential survey phases begins: the analysis and interpretation of data. This involves bringing all your survey results into one place to analyze and synthesize.

You can analyze the data manually using an Excel spreadsheet or program-assisted data analysis. Data analysis allows you to convert the raw data from your survey into meaningful findings to improve your school and draw broader insights about your target group.

Identify themes and patterns

You can’t act upon what each individual student thinks about their school or make changes to suit their specific preferences.

Identifying and analyzing trends and patterns will allow you to discover meaningful changes that will benefit everyone. It will also allow you to identify themes and patterns across the results to understand the most significant issues.

When making changes, start by tackling the problems that are of the highest priority and have been shared most widely.

Involve stakeholders

Surveys are powerful tools for involving stakeholders (in this case, students and teachers). You should aim to give them a voice in making important decisions in the school.

Presenting student perception survey results clearly and meaningfully is essential for achieving stakeholder buy-in and encouraging everyone to take action. To make the data more understandable, package it using visualizations, comprehensive summaries, and insightful recommendations.

Take action

Analyzing data and communicating insights are only the first steps. A student perception survey’s true value lies in transforming the insights into actions.

However, factors such as scarcity of resources, resistance to change, and competing priorities can make it hard to implement changes. As a result, try to employ a systematic, evidence-based approach grounded in survey findings. This will give you the mandate to drive through positive change.

Keeping track of your action plan’s progress is important. Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you measure the real impact of initiatives and make data-driven changes when needed.

Speak to your students regularly and ask them how effective they think the changes have been.


What is the objective of a student survey?

A student survey’s primary goal is to allow interested parties to highlight strengths and weaknesses in the school. Without it, teachers, managerial staff, and other decision-makers might not know how students truly feel.

The data you collect through the survey will enable you to zone in on issues and develop action plans to drive positive changes within the school. It will also help teachers understand students and what they need, enhancing the student experience and learning outcomes.

Why is student perception important in learning?

Student perception helps teachers and the school management understand students’ challenges in the classroom and wider school. This understanding helps them make necessary changes to create better learning experiences.

For example, survey data can help measure and improve instructor effectiveness based on feedback about the classroom atmosphere.

How can teachers use surveys in the classroom?

Teachers can benefit from student surveys in the following ways:

  • Understand who their students are and what they need

  • Receive feedback about class workload and structure

  • Get a better understanding of the school’s learning environment

  • Assess themselves and other teachers based on student feedback

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