Contribution by Jim Myers, NLCC T/TA Language Evaluator and Director of Evaluation and Research at Gary Bess Associates, and Cree Whelshula, NLCC T/TA Director
Surveys are important for language revitalization activities for a variety of reasons.
- To demonstrate to funders or potential funders that you are including the voice of your community in your proposed project.
- To identify the status of language endangerment by asking your community if they speak, how much they know, who do they know that speaks, etc.
- To improve ongoing language classes or outreach activities you want to have feedback for continuous quality improvement.
The way you develop a survey will depend on what you want to know. You can ask simple yes or no questions, rated questions, or open-ended questions. Regardless, here are some highlights from our in-house expert, Jim Myers, developing good survey questions.
- Make survey questions clear.
Questions should be precise so that the respondent knows exactly what the question is to be answered. Strive for only one interpretation of the question.
- Avoid double-barreled questions.
Whenever the word “and” appears in your question, you should check to see if you are asking a double-barreled question (i.e., two questions in one).
- Understand your audience.
Work to ensure that “all” of your target audience understands the questions you are asking (e.g., be mindful of professional jargon and acronyms/strive that questions are culturally relevant and sensitive).
- Short questions are best.
In general, you should assume that respondents will read questions quickly; therefore, you should provide clear, short items.
- Avoid Negative Terms
In the haste of reading a question, respondents may read over negative terms like “not” and answer the question on that basis.
- Avoid biased items and terms
The meaning of someone’s response to a question depends in large part on the wording of the question that was asked.