I am Betsy Olson, Extension Educator at the University of Minnesota Center for Youth Development. I have been working in youth development for very nearly 10 years and yet young people still surprise me every day.
Most recently, I was surprised at the depth of response I received from an open ended online survey question. After watching twenty 3-5 minute training videos we asked high school aged youth to use their own words to describe the videos. In the past when I have asked a similar question on an in-person survey form, the majority of the responses have been an empty space. Meanwhile the responses I received from the 113 young people who took this online survey were filled with interesting feedback and thoughtful responses. The average response was 12 words long. I did a happy dance in my cubicle. Then I asked myself why I rarely get this kind of feedback on surveys from youth in other contexts. In other words, what went right on this survey?
After some thought I identified a few elements I think made this survey work:
- Each youth respondent had dedicated a significant amount of time to this training. They were invested in the training and therefore were willing to take more time and thought to provide their insights.
- They could do it on their own time. So the typical rush at the end of a training to get out the door was not a factor.
- The anonymity of an online survey provided an environment free from concerns about offending staff or the judgement of friends.
- We had trusted them to complete the training independently, indicating we would trust their feedback.
Hot Tip: When youth are interested in a topic don’t be afraid to include open-ended questions in your formative surveys.
Hot Tip: When engaging youth in online activities or training, gathering qualitative input is much easier than through an in-person survey.
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