Teach By Design
Mar 8, 2022

Proven Ways to Make School-wide Feedback Work

So, you asked your students, families, and staff to take a survey about your school climate. What do you do with all the data you collected? You go through it all one step at a time.

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Have you ever filled out one of those customer satisfaction surveys circled at the bottom of your receipt? The other day, a Sephora employee offered me some free samples if I could take five minutes to fill out a survey about my experience that day. I’m a sucker for a sample and I didn’t have anywhere I had to be, so I said “Sure!” I scored our experience on various scales of 0 to 10 and told them how Amy helped us find the perfect curl cream for our wavy-haired kiddo at a discounted price.

...and Reader, the samples were worth the time. That leave-in conditioner smelled divine!

I’m not the first person to fill out a customer satisfaction survey at Sephora. Every year that company collects more than 800,00 surveys to follow-up on in-store customer experiences and to identify where employees might need more training. By integrating customer feedback in their decisions, Sephora’s customer loyalty ratings are up 6%, which is among the highest in the industry. Allegra Stanley, Sephora’s Vice President of Customer Loyalty, says they’ve been so successful because they remain committed to delivering what customers tell them they want. “It’s not about what their loyalty demonstrates to us, but what we can deliver to our clients that creates the most meaningful and connected experience with our brands.”[1]

In the same way Sephora uses customer feedback to improve their practices, it makes sense that your team would ask for your school-wide community’s perspectives to better inform your decisions.

Researchers tell us it’s actually risky not to ask.

According to those researchers, “when individuals cannot contribute their perspectives to the pursuit of a collective effort, their silence takes an emotional toll. If this silence occurs because the system does not allow people to speak up, people believe themselves undervalued and disrespected.”[2] On the other hand, inviting students to join in your evaluation process does more than provide them with a platform to share their experience. Researchers found it can be a transformational experience – one that encourages deeper reflection and fosters a greater sense of connection to the program itself.[3]

An easy place to start soliciting feedback from your larger school community is through the School Climate Survey (SCS) Suite. Each survey provides a member of your school community with a space to share their perspective on how it feels to show up at school every day. There’s a survey for elementary students, two surveys for middle and high school students, a survey for families, and a survey for school personnel.

Each climate survey is available for folks to take online in PBIS Assessment. As soon as someone submits their feedback, it's added to your totals so you can see the data in real time. There are a variety of reports available including:

  • Total Score Report
  • Subscale Report
  • Items Report
  • Disaggregated reports based on demographic data like race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and grade

Using an app makes summarizing all this feedback easier and PBIS Assessment is free...even the training!

The feedback you get from the SCS offers insights you may have never considered before. For example, in a sample of 721 elementary, middle, and high schools, the climate survey item students scored the lowest was: There is an adult at school who will help me if I need it.[4] That’s a tough thing for a student to open up and say face-to-face to an adult. It’s a lot safer to share in an anonymous survey.

Getting students, families, and school personnel to take the SCS is the first step. What do you do with all those data once they come in? Well, you go through it all one step at a time.

Maybe we could start our action plan by coming up with how to create a safe space where we invite students to talk openly about their experiences. What would that space look like? What would it feel like? Who would we invite?

Step 1. Close the Loop

When you’ve taken a satisfaction survey, did anyone ever tell you what they planned to do with your feedback? It’s rare. When the climate survey windows close, let your schoolwide community know what you plan to do next. Are you reviewing the scores at your next team meeting? Let them know. Are you planning to share some the survey reports with everyone? Tell them when. Will you add the information to your regular communications with students, families, and personnel? Get the deadline on someone’s calendar. Close that loop and let your community know what you’re going to do next.

Step 2. Paint a Big Picture

Each of the climate surveys comes with a total score report, but if you ask me, the real gems are in the subscale reports. These reports break the surveys up into sections so you can see which systems require more attention. Here’s an example. As a high school team, you sit down to review the results of the extended version of the climate survey your students took, and you see this. What are your takeaways?

The first thing I notice is there are some positive notes to celebrate; I also see there’s quite a bit of room to improve. Specifically, our students are telling us they don’t feel like they fit in at our school and they don’t feel as supported by the adults in our building as we’d like them to be. Those are hard topics to talk about face-to-face. Maybe we could start our action plan by coming up with how to create a safe space where we invite students to talk openly about their experiences. What would that space look like? What would it feel like? Who would we invite? The list of students we ask to participate might depend on what our data continue to tell us.  

Step 3. Break Up the Data

Checking on how your SCS data break out demographically gives you another lens into your students’ experiences. It could be, on average, all students in your school share a similar perspective on climate. It could also be that a specific group of students has a very different experience in your school than everyone else.

Every climate survey comes with a way to break the data out demographically. So, do that! In the example above, when we look at the data across grade levels, we notice that 8th graders scored our school climate the lowest out of everyone. As we put our focus groups together, maybe we could create one focus group specifically for 8th graders to share with us (and each other) what we could do to improve.

Step 4. Check Other Sources

The SCS information is one piece of the puzzle. There are so many data sources you have at your fingertips. How does this feedback compare with your discipline and behavior data from the SWIS Suite? How does it match with the Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) scores you submitted as a team? Check in with other teams in your building. What are the stories their data tell? Don’t stop with one dataset; check on other sources.

To understand how your systems and practices affect the people in your building, you need to ask. Soliciting feedback from your schoolwide community is the one way to ensure your implementation meets their needs and generates the outcomes you expect. How do you wade through all that data? Start by reviewing the big picture. What do the subscales tell you about where you can focus your attention? Dive deeper into the dataset and check on individual groups. Does everyone experience your school the same way or is there one group experiencing things differently? Finally, what does this dataset make you curious about in other data sources? Connect the dots between the feedback you have in front of you and the other datasets available in your school. The amount of information you collect could be overwhelming, or you could just take it one step at a time.

[1] Danziger, P. (2020). How To Make A Great Loyalty Program Even Better? Sephora Has The Answer. Forbes. Retrieved 3 March 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2020/01/23/how-to-make-a-great-retail-loyalty-program-even-better-sephora-has-the-answer/?sh=31917035287a
[2] Mason,S. (2022). Disempowerment evaluation and the risks of avoiding stakeholder feedback. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 1-10.
[3] Odera, E. L. (2021). Capturing the Added Value of Participatory Evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation42(2), 201-220.
[4] La Salle, T. P. (May, 2020). How are Schools Using the School Climate Surveys? University of Oregon. www.pbis.org

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Megan Cave


Megan Cave

Megan Cave is a member of the PBISApps Marketing and Communication team. She is the writer behind the user manuals, scripted video tutorials, and news articles for PBISApps. She also writes a monthly article for Teach by Design and contributes to its accompanying Expert Instruction podcast episode. Megan has completed four half marathons – three of which happened unintentionally – and in all likelihood, will run another in the future.

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