1. Define appropriate classroom targets for attitude assessments
  2. Differentiate among open-ended, multiple choice, and ranking surveys.
  3. Construct a classroom survey.
  4. Create graphs and tables to effectively convey survey results.



It's no secret that motivated, interested students are more likely to succeed in school than students who are apathetic or depressed. In addition to measuring students' knowledge, reasoning, performance, and products, teachers also need to be able to gauge students' attitudes, feelings, and interests.

Surveys can be an effective means for assessing student attitudes. This lesson concentrates on defining appropriate targets for assessing student dispositions, creating effective survey instruments, and developing charts and graphs to display survey results.

back to the top

The Content

A.  Defining Targets for Attitude Assessments 

 "Students who have positive attitudes about the things they are learning, and feel a sense of internal control of their own academic well-being are more likely to achieve at high levels than those who are negative, lack desire, and see themselves as victims of a hostile school world" (Stiggins, 2001, p. 340). Although one cannot expect a classroom survey to prevent a tragedy similar to Columbine, a survey can serve as a starting point toward helping teachers to understand and motivate students.

Appropriate targets for assessing attitudes are aspects that are directly related to the classroom and the content area. For example, your goal may be to determine if students feel they benefit by working in a group; which subject area is their favorite; or if they enjoy working on the computer. 

Inappropriate targets include issues that go beyond school -- questions about their home life, religion, or personal self-concepts. These issues are best left for parents, counselors, and psychologists. If you're not sure whether or not a specific question or domain is appropriate, ask your principal before surveying the students.

try this

  1. Read Measuring School Climate for Students: Concord High School  
  2. Reflect on these questions:
    • Why did they construct the survey?
    • How did they check the reliability and validity of their survey?
    • What did they learn from their survey?
    • What was changed at the school as a result of the survey?


B. Creating a Survey 

Student attitudes and dispositions can be measured formally or informally. For example, teachers observe student actions and expressions throughout the school day.  Likewise, informal classroom interactions occur constantly, with questions such as "Did you enjoy the movie?" "Why the sad face?" and "Do you think you'd like to be an astronaut?" For this lesson, however, we will concentrate on a more formal format for attitude assessment -- a survey (also referred to as a questionnaire).

Here are a few general guidelines for creating a survey.

  • Set your targets first -- make sure you know why you are conducting the survey.
  • If necessary, obtain clearance from your principal or school district.
  • Make sure students understand the intent of the survey.
  • Provide clear directions about how to respond to the survey.
  • Keep it short (generally one page is sufficient).
  • Use a clear and concise writing style, at the appropriate reading level.
  • Don't ask questions that will embarrass anyone or invade students' privacy.
  • Don't ask questions that are not related to your classroom.
  • Allow plenty of time to conduct the survey.
  • If it is an anonymous survey, make sure it stays that way.
  • Don't reward or punish students based on their responses.
  • Keep survey results private -- do not leave them in places where others might access them.

Surveys can consist of open-ended questions, multiple-choice questions, or rating scales that allow students to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree with specific statements.  You can also use a combination of approaches -- as long as it's clear to the student how to respond to the questions.

Open-Ended Surveys

Open-ended surveys contain questions, followed by an area for the student to fill in a response. This survey type is generally used to obtain general, rather than specific, feedback from students. Writing open-ended surveys is quite easy; however, compiling the results can be more difficult because these surveys don't use a scale or ranking for options. 

When writing questions for open-ended surveys, do not make the questions too general or ambiguous. For example, suppose I would like to know your reaction to the online delivery of this course, and asked the following question:  "What do you think about the format of this class?"  The problem is that word "format" can be ambiguous -- does it refer to online vs. classroom delivery; five lessons vs. ten; the structure of the lessons and the use of Try Its; the evaluation requirements; or the timeframe? If you have a specific target (purpose) for a question, you must make sure the question is clear.

Surveys can be conducted orally, on paper, or via a computer, and there are many tools available to help you create surveys.  For example, SurveyBuilder is a website that allows users to create free, online surveys. 

Multiple-Choice Surveys

Is you have specific questions, with specific answer choices, the best approach might be to create a multiple-choice survey. For example, if I wanted to know which of the lessons in the course you felt was the most relevant or difficult or time-consuming or meaningless, I could construct a multiple choice question, with the lesson titles as the alternatives. For example:

Which lesson did you find most relevant for your classroom?

  1. Basic Concepts
  2. Selected Response Assessments
  3. Constructed Response Assessments
  4. Performance Assessment
  5. Classroom Interactions
  6. Attitude Surveys

To view a multiple-choice survey related to this course, go to the Multiple-Choice Example at SurveyBuilder

Ranking Scale Surveys

Ranking scales (often referred to as Likert scales) are very common on surveys. Basically, a statement is presented, then the student can respond on a scale that indicates how much (or little) they agree with the statement (see Figure 2).

For the following statements, please indicate whether you agree or disagree. 

  1=Strongly Disagree 2=Disagree 3=Agree 4=Strongly Agree
This course is too time-consuming. 1 2 3 4
This course offers valuable information that I'll be able to use in my classroom. 1 2 3 4

Figure 2. Sample Likert scale.

In his book, Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know, Popham (2002) offers eight steps for building a Likert inventory or survey (p. 225-226).

  1. Choose the affective variable you want to assess.
  2. Generate a series of favorable and unfavorable statements regarding the affective variable.
  3. Get several people to classify each statement as positive or negative.
  4. Decide on the number and phrasing of the response options for each statement.
  5. Prepare the self-report inventory, giving students directions regarding how to respond and stipulating that the inventory must be completely anonymously.
  6. Administer the inventory either to your own students or, if possible (as a tryout), to other students.
  7. Score the inventories.
  8. Identify and eliminate statements that fail to function in accord with the other statements.

try this

  1. Review the Using Data for School Improvement Student Survey  -- this is the survey that was used in at Concord High School (from Part 1 of this lesson). 
    • In items 9 through 48, how many negative statements can you find?
    • Why do you think they used a scale with four options instead of five?
  1. Read the article, Action Research:  Attitude is the Key to Success  
    • Scroll to the bottom of the article and review the surveys.
    • How would you classify the survey in Appendix A (open-ended, multiple-choice, or ranking scale)?
    • How would you classify the survey in Appendix B (open-ended, multiple-choice, or ranking scale)?
    • What benefits did this teacher obtain from the attitude assessments?


C. Displaying Survey Results

After you conduct an attitudinal assessment, you need to examine the results, and, if appropriate, make changes in your classroom management, instruction, or interactions. In other words, if you are not going to act upon the results, then don't conduct the survey.

There are many ways that survey data can be displayed and/or reported. The most common approach is to compile the responses and create charts or graphs that can quickly convey the information.

For example, the University of Texas administered Attitude Toward Science Class surveys to over 400 students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Looking strictly at the averages (means), it's difficult to get a picture of whether the attitudes were improving or not. 

For example,  look at #23: "Science is one of my favorite classes."  


Sixth Grade

Seventh Grade

Eighth Grade

Pretest Mean

Posttest Mean

Pretest Mean

Posttest Mean

Pretest Mean

Posttest Mean

23. Science is one of my favorite classes.







By displaying the same data in bar charts as illustrated below, it is much easier to see that the attitude of the 7th grades improved over the year, while the 6th and 8th grades became more negative.

Figure 3. Bar chart for displaying survey results.

Pie charts, line graphs, scatter plots, and others are valuable methods for displaying survey data. For a review of the effective use of illustrations, go through the tutorial  in Tables and Graphs or Charts and Graphs.

try this

Experiment with creating graphs and tables using Excel, PowerPoint, or the online program,  Create a Graph.

back to the top


Part 1:  Creating a Survey

  1. Create a survey for your class that has at least 10 items. The survey can be created in a word processor or the online tool, Survey Builder 

  2. When you are finished, send a copy of the survey (or the online address) to your instructor.

Part 2:  Displaying Survey Results

  1. Read the article, Student Bullying Survey

  2. Create a chart that shows how safe the students feel at school.

  3. Create a chart that shows who they tell about bullying (parent, teacher, etc.).

  4. Send copies of your charts to your instructor.


Evaluation Checklist

Not Included
Create a Survey
Display Survey Results


Performance Assessments  | Classroom Interactions | Attitude Surveys


This page was last updated on: 08/10/2003.
This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School District and FCIT at USF.