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IA Surveys

Sunday 22 September 2013

Good Questions

So many students go for the option of a survey to collect primary data for the Internal Assessment project. I am often struck by the lack of experience students demonstrate in understanding the nature of a good question. The design and implementation of a questionnaire is a process that is often underestimated and my direct repsonse is to spend some more time reflecting on this with students. This blog post is the first draft of a group activity I am planning for my DP2 students next week to try and address this point before we get stuck in to their internal assessments. The aim is to get students to look at certain questions and, in discussion groups, to think about the questions from different points of view and to decide if they are good questions or not. More importantly, I will ask them to think about how they might make them better questions. Below is what I have so far.....

Survey Questions

Consider the merits of the survey questions below. As you discuss each one, consider the following points…..

• How accurate might I expect peoples’ responses to be?
• What kind of data will the question yield? Is it quantitative or qualitative? (words, numbers, combination)
• Should respondents be given options to choose from or allowed free answers? Why?
• If you are going to give options, what would they be? How can you ensure the data you get is as useful as possible?
• What other issues/problems do you think this question might present?
• What other question might you ask to help get the most out of the data?
• What might you be able to do with the data collected?
• Will you expect an interesting spread of data?
• Vote the question either red (bad question), amber (OK but needs improvement) or green (good question)
• How might you improve/replace the questions you voted red or amber.

How much homework do you do?
Are you a vegetarian?
Do you drink alcohol?
What are your politics, right, left or center?
How many friends do you have on facebook?
What sports do you play?
What is your nationality?
What is your GPA?
Are you a smoker? If yes, how many cigarettes do you smoke a day?
Do you have a smartphone?
How many siblings do you have?
How many televisions are in your house?
How tall are you?
How many hours a day do you read?
How many languages do you speak?

In addition to this it is really worth getting students to look at the Worldwide maths studies classroom facebook group in which an increasing number of students are posting their surveys. It is great to think of Maths Studies students all over the world helping each other out with this task. Also, this gives students a great opportunity to see the other questionnaires people are trying and experience some of the issues that might come up if they design their own. Encourage your students join the group if they want to.

I am thinking about a bunch of similar activities to try and help students refine their own ideas and will let you know about them as I do.  In the mean time I might remind you about the Wisdom of the Crowd data project on the site and the Comparing data distributions activity that both help students to think about good project ideas.


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