How to Collect Meaningful Student Data with Google Forms

I have been using Google Forms for several years now for quick student homework checks, quizzes, and source evaluation; however, I think that my favorite way to use this tool is to gather systematic data from students about their perceptions of the class, their learning, and my teaching.

I am by no means an expert in data collection, but I have learned a bit.  Here are my top 5 tips for gathering meaningful student data with Google Forms.  And, if you’re interested in collecting data of your own, be sure to check out my Survey Bundle.  

  1.  It is best to have a targeted skill or question in mind when designing your form survey.  For example, when I wanted to design a survey for students who participated in the “20% Project” for my class, I wanted to know whether students were able to truly make the shift to intrinsic motivation for learning vs. external motivation such as a grade or teacher validation.  Theoretically, students who designed and had the freedom to pursue their own learning should achieve the trifecta of “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”  So, for my first survey, I wrote questions that asked students about their perception of themselves as learners, past motivation for learning, etc.  Each time I gave a survey, I kept this focus in mind and it helped me to know what kinds of questions to write and avoid being overwhelmed by all of the types of questions I could have asked.
  2. Collect the same type of data more than one time.  Be systematic.  With the 20% project, I collected data from students quarterly.  I was able to see trends over time instead of a snapshot in time and draw stronger conclusions about student learning.
  3.  Write questions that are both qualitative (open response) and quantitative (a closed range of responses such as multiple choice or linear scale).  The open response questions are great for clarifying quantitative responses.  They are also interesting to code for key words.  For example, you could tally the number of times “fun” is mentioned vs. “boring.”  Or, you could enter all of the response for a question into a word mixer such as Wordle or Tagxgedo and see what words are dominant.
  4. Make sure, when writing a linear scale question (i.e. Rate from 1-4 your success with this project) make sure to give students an even number of options.  This allows students to clearly choose whether they fall more negative or more positive rather than allowing a middle option.
  5. Come at a topic by asking a question in different ways, and mix up the order of the questions (not back-to-back).  Back to the 20% project, early on in the survey, I asked students about their perception of themselves as learners.  To see if there was a strong correlation between their early response and grades, I later on asked students what their current grade average was in school.  Then, a couple of questions later, I asked them whether they considered themselves to be above or below the other students in the class in terms of achievement.  I also asked them what their current perception of the 20% project was and what grade it would receive right now and why.  Students, not knowing that I wanted to see the link between their responses to these questions, had no reason to modify their answers to fit what they thought I wanted.  So, I was able to see that the students who considered themselves to be the “low achievers” were actually highly motivated by the 20% project and vice versa.  The final time I gave the survey, I was able to see that even the “high achievers” had flipped their view of the 20% project success.  While, before, they were demotivated by the fact that they weren’t receiving a grade, they were now motivated by the success of their project, by the knowledge they gained, or by the fun they had along the way.

I love learning about students through data (I’m a geek that way).  What is something you have learned from students as a result of a Google Form?  Or, what tips do you have for collecting meaningful student data?


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