Ed Eval TIG Week: Using pulse surveys to get rapid, actionable feedback from teachers during a professional development experience by Valerie Futch Ehrlich

Hello! My name is Valerie Futch Ehrlich and I am the Evaluation and Research Lead for the Societal Advancement group at the Center for Creative Leadership. My team focuses on supporting our K-12, higher education, non-profit, and public health sector initiatives through evaluation and research. I want to share with you our recent experience using pulse surveys to collect feedback from school-wide faculty on a professional development initiative.

Pulse surveys” are short, specific, and actionable surveys intended to collect rapid feedback that is immediately utilized to inform the direction of a program, activity, or culture. Through our partnership with Ravenscroft School, we used a pulse survey midway through a (mandated) year-long professional development experience and timed it so that the pulse feedback would inform the next phase of programming.

We used Waggl, a tool designed for pulse surveys, that has a simple interface to include either yes/no questions, agreement scales, or one open-ended question. A neat feature of Waggl is that it allows for voting as long as the pulse is open, encouraging participants to read the open-ended responses of their peers and vote on them. This way, you can have the most actionable requests filter up to the top based on voting, and it can help drive decisions.

In our case, the Waggl responses directly informed the design of the second phase of training. We also repeated the Waggl toward the end of the school year to quickly see if our program had its intended impact, to provide ideas for a more comprehensive evaluation survey, and to inform the next year of work with the school.

Hot Tips:

  • Keep your pulse survey short! This helps ensure participation. It should be no more than 5-10 questions and take less than a minute or two.
  • Pulse survey results are quick fodder for infographics! Waggl has this functionality built in, but with a little tweaking you could get similar information from a Google Form or other tools.
  • Consider demographic categories that might provide useful ways to cut the data. We looked at differences across school levels and how different cohort groups were responding, which helped our program designers further tailor the training.
  • Pulse surveys build engagement and buy-in…when you use them! Faculty reported feeling very validated by our use of their feedback in the program design. The transparency and openness to feedback by our design team likely increased faculty buy-in for the entire program.

Lesson Learned:

Think outside the box for pulse surveys. Although they are popular with companies for exploring employee engagement, imagine using them with parents at a school, mentors at an after-school program, or even students in a classroom giving feedback to their instructor. There are many possibilities! Any place you want quick, useful feedback would be a great place to add them. In our next phase of work, we are considering training school leaders to send out their own pulse surveys and incorporate the feedback into their practices. Stay tuned!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


1 thought on “Ed Eval TIG Week: Using pulse surveys to get rapid, actionable feedback from teachers during a professional development experience by Valerie Futch Ehrlich”

  1. Valerie,
    I read your article on the “Pulse Survey” with great interest. You mentioned that you use the mid-way through year-long Professional Development in order to inform the next phase of your project. I think this would be a very valuable tool for educator in my own school, and am looking for ways to implement this.
    I have sent a few short surveys done on the Outlook platform, but the data is not presented in a way that is easy to read and can be shared with others. I really love the look of the infographics you get on your platform, Waggl. I think the way that the data is presented allows you to easily make sense of what your educators are saying. One challenge that I have is creating a survey that is brief enough that educators will take the time to complete it. I liked your suggestion of 5-10 questions, and no longer than a minute. How do you prioritize which questions you will ask? Does your team agree on which questions to include?
    I definitely agree that the pulse survey builds engagement and I could see this being an effective way to survey parents at my school to see the success of programs and initiatives that we’ve implemented. I think the concept of pulse surveys has great potential in school settings. As an elementary school leader, I definitely would agree that training would be very valuable. I deliver a great deal of PD for my staff and system, and think the immediate feedback would help in deciding next steps and priorities.
    Kim Pauli

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