How to design Research Questionnaire

how to make research questionnaire and how to build a research questionnaire and how to make questionnaire in research and how to write research questionnaire
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Published Date:07-07-2017
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Quantitative research methods in educational planning Series editor: Kenneth N.Ross Module Maria Teresa Siniscalco 8 and Nadia Auriat Questionnaire design UNESCO International Institute for Educational PlanningIntroduction 1 • This module provides guidance for the design of standardized questionnaires that are to be administered in school systems to students, teachers, and school heads. The module is divided into four sections that cover initial planning, the design of questions, examples of question types, and moving from a draft to a final questionnaire. i d l h d h l l si After reading th s mo u e, t e rea er s ou d be ab e to de gn a quality survey questionnaire that is suitable for addressing the research issues at hand. He or she will know how to: • Decide on the target population for the questionnaire. • Identify the variables and indicators that will address the research issues and hypotheses on which data are to be collected. • Develop demographic, knowledge, attitude, and practice questions. • ‘Close’ open ended quantitative and qualitative questions and design skip, filter, and contingency questions, where appropriate. • Decrease response bias and maximize response rates. • Design probe questions and interviewer or respondent instructions on the questionnaire. © UNESCO 1Module 8 Questionnaire design • Conduct a pilot test of the questionnaire, and adjust its final design according to the results. • Prepare a codebook for data entry. 2 © UNESCO 3Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning 2 This section reviews the steps required to determine the need for a new questionnaire, and looks at how a general research problem needs to be translated into a number of specic r fi esearch questions and hypotheses. It examines the problem of valid cross-national instruments and provides helpful hints and recommendations for using comprehensive and precise definitions of key educational concepts. Why a new questionnaire – and when? This module addresses the planning and design of standardized questionnaires. A formal standardized questionnaire is a survey instrument used to collect data from individuals about themselves, or about a social unit such as a household or a school. A questionnaire is said to be standardized when each respondent is to be exposed to the same questions and the same system of coding responses. The aim here is to try to ensure that differences in responses to questions can be interpreted as reec fl ting differences among respondents, rather than differences in the processes that produced the answers. Standardized questionnaires are often used in the field of educational planning to collect information about various aspects of school systems. The main way of collecting this information is by asking people questions – either through oral interviews (face to face or telephone), or by self-administered questionnaires, or by using some combination of these two methods. 2 © UNESCO 3Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning Although survey research, by definition, implies the use of some form of questionnaire to be administered to a sample of respondents, the questionnaire is simply one instrument that can be employed in the study of a research problem. As such, it may or may not be the most suitable tool for the task at hand. Hence, before deciding on the need for a new questionnaire, one should consider whether or not some of the required information may already be available from other sources, for example, from statistics compiled by governments or research agencies, or from survey research archives. One should also consider whether a suitable questionnaire already exists that could be wholly or partially used. The planner should also consider whether other means of data collection are more appropriate. These can be (a) field experiments, where people in ‘treatment’ and ‘control’ groups respond to a scenario devised by the investigators, (b) content analysis of newspapers or articles, (c) direct observation (such as counting the number of schools in a district, the number of blackboards in a school or the number of students per teacher in a given area), or (d) non-directive interviews where there are no pre-specied fi questions and the interviewer has a great deal of freedom in probing areas and specic i fi ssues during the course of the interview. Among the types of information that can be collected by means of a questionnaire are facts, activities, level of knowledge, opinions, expectations and aspirations, membership of various groups, and attitudes and perceptions. In the field of educational planning, the information that is collected can be classied b fi roadly into: (a) inputs to education (such as school resources or various background characteristics of schools, teachers or students), (b) learning and teaching processes, and (c) the outcomes of education (such as pupil achievement, attitudes towards school, and measures of school efc fi iency such as survival rates etc.). 4 © UNESCO 5Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning Relationships between research problems, research hypotheses, and variable construction The development of a questionnaire commences with the transformation of general educational research and policy concerns into specic r fi esearch questions for which the data are intended to supply an answer. Some examples of general educational policy and research concerns are: (a) policy-makers want to assess the supply of resources in their primary schools, (b) a curriculum expert wants to determine to what extent teaching methods explain differences in reading literacy among 9-year-old students, and (c) a national evaluation agency wants to investigate student attitudes towards science at the end of secondary school. In the case of the above three examples, it would be necessary to establish empirical evidence for decisions through the collection of data on facts (school resources), activities (teaching methods), and attitudes (students’ views towards science), respectively. A research hypothesis is a tentative answer to a research problem expressed in the form of a clearly stated relation between independent (‘cause’) and dependent (‘effect’) variables. Hypotheses are built around a more general research problem. Examples of educational research problems derived from the general issue of ‘equity’ are: • How large are differences in the stability of school staff between schools in urban and rural areas? • Is the provision of equipment and supplies distributed to schools dependent on public and private funding? 4 © UNESCO 5Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning These research problems can be translated into research hypotheses as follows: • The stability of school staff is greater in rural schools than in urban schools. • Equipment and supplies are more widely available in schools dependent on private funding than they are in schools dependent on public funding. Characteristics of research hypotheses Educational research hypotheses should have the following characteristics. • Describe clearly, and provide identic fi ation of the most important variables in operational terms. • Specify expected relationships among independent, dependent, and control variables. • Present a statement in a form that is testable with available research methods. • Be value free in the sense that they exclude the personal biases of the researcher. Specifying variables and indicators Following the identic fi ation of the research problem and the formulation of researchable hypotheses, it is necessary to prepare a tentative list of variables and indicators for measuring the specic fi research questions and hypotheses of interest. 6 © UNESCO 7Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning A variable is a characteristic that can assume two or more properties. If a property can change either in quantity or quality, then it can be regarded as a variable. There are five main types of variable. • Dependent variables Variables that the researcher is trying to explain (for example, student achievement). • Independent or explanatory variables Variables that cause, or explain, a change in the dependent variable. • Control variables Variables that are used to test for a spurious relationship between dependent and independent variables. That is, to test whether an observed relationship between dependent and independent variables may be explained by the presence of another variable. • Continuous variables Variables that take all values within a particular range. • Discrete variables Variables that take a number of specic v fi alues. An indicator is an empirical, observable, measure of a concept. When an indicator is composed of a combination of variables involving only simple calculations (such as addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, or a combination of these) it is called a ‘simple indicator’. When more complex analytical methods, such as factor analysis or regression are used to develop an indicator, the result is referred to as a ‘complex indicator’. Examples of simple indicators are: number of school library books per pupil; or teacher/ pupil ratio. An example of a complex indicator is a factor score 6 © UNESCO 7Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning entitled ‘emphasis on phonics’ in the teaching of reading formed from three variables: learning letter-sound relationships; word attack skills; and assessment of phonic skills. Operationalization of research questions When operationalizing a specic r fi esearch question to identify an appropriate indicator it is necessary to specify the indicator according to the following components. • The statistics that will be reported (for example, means or percentages). • The level of analysis at which the statistics will be calculated (for example, at the student, teacher, or school level). • The target population and, if any, the sub-populations considered (for example, all primary school students, with the data presented by region, and urban/rural location of the school). • The specic m fi easure to be used (for example, the number of school library books per student). • The variables needed in order to calculate a measure on the indicator to be obtained (for example, total school enrolment and number of books in the school library). Two different indicators of teacher stability were operationalized in data collections conducted by UNESCO and the OECD during mid 1990’s. The UNESCO study examined the conditions of primary schools in the least developed countries (Schleicher et al., 1995, pp. 56-59) and the OECD study was focussed on the development of a 8 © UNESCO 9Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning broad range of indicators (OECD, 1996, pp. 150-152). These studies offer interesting examples of different approaches to indicator construction. For example, staff stability was defined on the basis of the number of years teachers had been at the school, but the indicator was constructed differently in the two surveys. In the UNESCO study it was hypothesized that most of the participating countries would be characterized by a high level of staff instability due to population growth and resulting increases in school enrolment rates. Teachers were considered to be ‘stable’ if they had been at the school for at least three or more years. The level of staff stability for nations was represented by the percentage of teachers in each country who ‘had been at the same school for three or more years’. The following variables were needed for this calculation: the overall number of full-time equivalent teachers in the school; the number of teachers having joined the school by year; and, the year of construction of the school building – which functioned as a validity check variable. In contrast, the indicator of staff stability used by the OECD for developed countries measured the percentage of primary school students enrolled in schools where more than 75 percent of teachers had been employed at the same school for at least five years. In order to build this indicator the following variables were needed: total enrolment per school, the number of teachers per school, and the number of years each teacher had been employed at the school. Three aspects distinguish these two indicators of school staff stability. First, in the OECD indicator the percentage of stable teachers was weighted by the number of students enrolled. This approach was taken because the goal of the analysis was to provide an indication of how many students were affected by the stability of the teaching force – rather than concentrating on teachers as the unit of analysis. In contrast, the UNESCO study aimed at giving a picture of the teaching body as a whole and therefore employed 8 © UNESCO 9Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning teachers as the unit of analysis. Second, stability was defined as teachers being at the school for a minimum of five years in the OECD indicator, and for at least three years in the UNESCO indicator. The reason for the difference between five and three years was that the first study was dealing with a group of the world’s most developed countries and the second study concerned developing countries. Third, the OECD indicator defined ‘stable’ schools as those where more than a certain percentage of teachers (75 percent) were ‘stable’. That is, the OECD defined an indicator decision point to distinguish between stable and unstable schools. On the other hand, the UNESCO study, aimed at giving a descriptive picture of the conditions of schooling and therefore did not need to adopt an indicator decision point. The following table presents the components of the above- mentioned indicators on teacher stability, and highlights the main differences between them. 10 © UNESCO 11Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning Table 1 Analysis of the teacher stability indicators’ components Components of Teacher stability the final indicator UNESCO data collection OECD data collection Statistics Percentages of teachers Percentages of teachers Unit of analysis Teacher level Student level Target population Primary school Primary school teachers (and sub-populations) teachers, with reference to subgroups of schools defined by type (public/private) and location (urban/ rural) Operationalization Three years at the Five years at the school of the indicator school Variables needed a) overall number of a) overall number of teachers teachers b) number of teachers b) number of teachers by number of years at the same school for of permanence at at least 5 years the same school Indicator decision Not specified Schools with at least 75% points of stable teachers 10 © UNESCO 11Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning The problem of the cross-national validity of educational concepts, definitions, and data collection instruments The specic fi ation of variables and indicators presupposes a general and common agreement on the exact meaning and scope of the terms and concepts employed. However, given the diversity that characterizes different education systems, not to mention the disparities that can sometimes be found among regions, and even among schools within the same system, there is a need for a clear and comprehensive definition of these kinds of terms. In the following paragraphs some key educational concepts and terms are examined to exemplify the kind of definitional problems that arise when dealing with education issues. Some solutions that can be used to address problems in this area have also been described. The definitions and classic fi ations presented draw mainly on UNESCO, OECD, and EUROSTAT work. 1. What is formal education? a. Problem/issues to be resolved A number of questions on the scope of education need to be addressed before meaningful data can be collected on key aspects of education systems. For example, when does formal education start and should a data collection on education statistics include the pre-primary level? How should activities in the field of vocational education and training be accounted for? Is special education provided within or outside regular schools, and should it be covered by the data collection? Should adult education be included in the statistics? 12 © UNESCO 13Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning b. Helpful hints Some directions helping to answer these questions can be drawn from the following comprehensive definition of education proposed within the International Standard Classic fi ation of Education (ISCED). Education is ‘organized and sustained communication designed to bring about learning’ (UNESCO, 1976). ‘Communication’ in this context refers to the relation between two or more persons involving the transmission of information. ‘Organized’ means planned in a sequence including established aims and/or curricula and involving an educational agency that organizes the learning situation and/or teachers who are employed (including unpaid volunteers) to consciously organize the communication. ‘Sustained’ means that the learning experience has the characteristics of duration and continuity. ‘Learning’ indicates any change in behaviour, information, knowledge, understanding, attitudes, skills, or capabilities that can be retained and cannot be ascribed to physical growth or to the development of inherited behaviour patterns. According to this definition, pre-primary school should be included within the specic fi ation of education because, not only does it serve the purpose of giving the child daily care while the parents are at work, it also contributes towards the child’s social and intellectual development. One solution to keeping track of differences among pre-primary programmes is to distinguish between ‘all pre- primary programmes’ and ‘pre-primary programmes with special staff qualic fi ations requirements’. The first area covers all forms of organized and sustained activity taking place in schools or other institutional-settings (as opposed to services provided in households or family settings). The second refers to programmes where at least one adult has a qualic fi ation characterized by training covering psychological and pedagogical subject matter. 12 © UNESCO 13Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning In the area of vocational training one solution is to exclude vocational and technical training that is carried out in enterprises, with the exception of combined school and work programmes that are explicitly deemed to be part of an education system. The above definition of education also suggests that special education programmes, whether provided by regular schools or by special institutions, are to be included in the data collection as long as the main aim of the programme is the educational development of the individual. ‘Adult’ or ‘non-regular’ education programmes should be included in the statistics only if they involve studies with a subject matter content similar to regular education studies or whose qualic fi ations are similar to those of regular education programmes. Each of the above points provides some idea of the kind of definitional and classic fi atory work necessary to overcome national and/or regional differences in definitions and thereby to construct data collection instruments which guarantee the comparability of the data that are collected. 2. Distinguishing public and private service providers a. Problem/issues to be resolved Most national and cross-national data collections gather information that will enable schools to be classied a fi ccording to the education service provider. In many data collections for school systems, this classic fi ation is often referred to as ‘school type’. This is a complex task because of the need to take variety into account. In some countries virtually all education activities and institutions are public. In other countries private agencies play a substantial role. However, the label ‘private’ covers 14 © UNESCO 15Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning a number of different educational cong fi urations. In some countries ‘private schools’ are entirely or mostly funded by the central authority, but they are run privately. In other countries ‘private schools’ are entirely or mostly funded and managed privately. When information concerning ‘school type’ is collected it is not sufc fi ient to ask the respondent (for example, the school head) to classify the school either as public or private. When developing questions in this area, whether the questionnaire is to be addressed to a central authority or to school heads, it is necessary to specify what it is intended by ‘private’ vs. ‘public’, or by ‘government’ vs. ‘independent’. b. Helpful hints An approach often adopted is to distinguish between the following three categories of schools: schools controlled by public authorities; schools controlled by private authorities but depending on substantial government funds; and schools controlled and funded by private authorities. Alternatively, it is helpful to distinguish between the ‘control’ and ‘funding’ of schools. The terms ‘public’ and ‘private’ can be used to indicate control. That is, whether it is a public or a private agency which has the ultimate power to make decisions concerning the institution (in particular the power to determine the general programme of the school and to appoint the ofc fi ers who manage the school). The terms ‘government’ and ‘independent’ can be used to indicate the source of funding. For example, a government school could be defined as one that receives more than 50 per cent of the funds to support its basic educational services from government agencies and/or whose teaching personnel are paid by a government agency; whereas an independent school could be defined as one that receives less than 50 per cent of its overall funding from government agencies. 14 © UNESCO 15Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning 3. What is a school? a. Problem/issues to be resolved A school is often difc fi ult to define in a manner that is consistent for a cross-national data collection. In some cases a school consists of several buildings, managed by the same head-teacher. In other cases, the same building hosts different schools in different shifts at different times of the day. In some cases a school has a well-defined structure, consisting of separate classrooms – with each classroom being endowed with one teacher table and chair, one desk and chair for each student, and a chalkboard in each classroom. In other cases the school is in the open air, perhaps under a tree, where teachers and students sit on the ground, and the students use their knees as writing places. When collecting comparative information on schools, these different scenarios have to be taken into account. b. Helpful hints Suppose, for example, that ‘school crowdedness’ – expressed as square metres of classroom space per pupil – is being measured. The result obtained by dividing the number of square metres by the total enrolment will be correct (and comparable across schools) only in a situation where all schools have one shift. But if some schools operate more than one shift, then the results will be misleading. One solution in this case would be to ask whether the school has shifts, and how many students there are per shift. The crowdedness measure could then be calculated by taking into account the overall number of students for schools with no shifts, but only the students in the largest shift for schools with more than one shift. 16 © UNESCO 17Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning 4. What is a student? a. Problem/issues to be resolved Suppose that student enrolment figures are being investigated. How will the corresponding statistics be calculated and reported? When the focus of the analysis is on rates of participation, what should be done with repeaters, and how should they be distinguished from students enrolling regularly for the first time in a grade or year of study? All these issues need to be taken into account when designing questions on student enrolment figures for an education system. b. Helpful hints A distinction should be made between the number of students and the number of registrations. The number of students enrolled refers to the number of individuals who are enrolled within a specic r fi eference period, while the number of registrations refers to the count of enrolments within a specic fi reference period for a particular programme of study. The two measures are the same if each individual is only enrolled in one programme during the reference period, but the measures differ if some students are enrolled in multiple programs. Each measure is important: the number of students is used to assess participation rates (compared to population numbers) and to establish descriptive profiles of the student body. The number of registrations is used to assess total education activities for different areas of study. One solution for calculating student enrolment figures would be to choose a given date in the education programme of interest and then to present the number of students enrolled on that date. Another solution would be to report the average number of students enrolled during the academic year. Yet a third possibility would be to report the total number of students 16 © UNESCO 17Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning enrolled during the academic year, with the possibility of double counting multiple entrants and re-entrants. With respect to identifying repeaters, one commonly applied solution is that students are classied as r fi epeaters if they are enrolling in the same grade or year of study for a second or further time. 5. What is a teacher? a. Problem/issues to be resolved How can teachers be defined in order to distinguish them from other educational personnel? One approach would be to base the definition on qualic fi ations. However, this could result in an overestimation of the number of teachers because a number of personnel employed in schools may have a teacher qualic fi ation but do not actually teach. Another approach would be to define teachers on the basis of their activities within schools, but this alone would not be sufc fi ient to distinguish professionals from those who may act as teachers occasionally or on a voluntary basis. A further issue is the reduction of head-counts to full- time equivalents (if part-time employment applies). How can part-time teachers be converted into full-time equivalents? No questionnaire concerning teacher characteristics can be designed before these issues have been claried fi . b. Helpful hints The following definition of a teacher provides a useful framework for overcoming ambiguities: A teacher is a person whose professional activity involves the transmission of knowledge, attitudes, and skills to students enrolled in an educational programme. 18 © UNESCO 19Module 8 Questionnaire design Initial planning The above definition is based on the concepts of (a) activity (excluding those without active teaching duties), (b) profession (excluding people who work occasionally or on a voluntary capacity in educational institutions), and (c) educational programme (excluding people such as some school principals who provide services other than formal instruction to students). Note that according to this definition, principals, vice-principals, and other administrators without teaching responsibilities as well as teachers without active teaching responsibilities for students in educational institutions are not classied as t fi eachers. For the reporting of head-counts, individuals who are linked to multiple educational programmes, such as teachers who divide their work between public and private institutions, or between levels of education, or between different functions (for example, teaching and administration) should be pro-rated between those levels, types of institutions and functions. Suppose, for example, that there are 100 full-time teachers that (on the average) devote 80 per cent of their statutory working time to teaching and 20 per cent to the function of headmaster. In this case 80 full-time teachers should be reported under the category ‘teacher’ and 20 full-time teachers should be reported under the category ‘other professional personnel’. If countries cannot pro-rate educational personnel, the classic fi ation could be based on the activity to which they devote the majority of their working time. With respect to part-time conversion, the distinction between full- time and part-time teachers, as well as the calculation of full-time equivalents, is based on the concept of statutory working time. One solution to this conversion problem is to classify as ‘full-time’ those teachers employed for more than 90 percent of their statutory working time, and as ‘part-time’ those teachers employed for less than 90 percent of the statutory working time. The classic fi ation of individuals linked to multiple educational programmes as full-time 18 © UNESCO 19

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