Survey Development, Design, and Launch for the SSU psychology department

Challenge: The existing senior exit survey for the Sonoma State University Psychology Department was outdated, ineffective, and lacking essential components. The survey needed to be rewritten, however, determining what information the survey should collected proved to be a challenge. The SSU psychology department has a very vague and mostly immeasurable set of goals, and the staff has different psychology backgrounds and very strong differences of opinion. What does the success of a department like this look like? How can that be measured? Furthermore, how do you respect the history of this humanistic-based psychology program while giving students learning experiences they can apply to graduate school, the business world or whatever comes next?


Research Approach and Methods:  Developing this survey was a three-part process. The first was to collect as much information about the department, existing students’ experiences, and every other item that should possibly be included. As a team, 12 students brainstormed, talked about our own experiences, researched other psychology department surveys, and gathered as much information as we could. We interviewed deans, professors, and other key-stakeholders who shared their preferences and opinions for what may be measured in this survey that would be. We created charts of all of these requests and important items and created a general structure for the survey. The second part of the process was to narrow down the immense amount of information into a manageable set of organized questions that would not frighten away students from participating. As a team of three, we categorized and narrowed down to the essentials all of the potential categories, topics and questions that should be included in the survey. We managed the requests of the various stakeholders, including measurements on minority experiences, burnout scales, and practice GRE questions. For the third part of the process, the survey was then entered into Qualtrics, including questions with logical navigation to streamline the experience and only ask the necessary questions of each participant. The survey was tested, sent to the stakeholders for review, and finally sent out to the graduating seniors.


Key Learnings: The results of this survey are just coming in now, so they have not yet been analyzed to learn any insights into the success of the department. The real experience here, however, is not the results. Rather it was the process. Being able to launch this survey required getting over 20 professors, deans and other stakeholders to participate and agree. It required working with a team of students with varying levels of commitment.  It required organizing a large amount of questions and topics of importance and then reorganizing them when more information came in. It was almost like a dance that lasted nine months and that required consistent focus and commitment to bring to a place where it could be sent to respondents.


Impact of Research Findings: The research findings will ultimately affect the psychology department in ways to be determined. In developing surveys, even though more voices and more opinions require more patience and more time, the end result is stronger and more effective. Involve all stakeholders, respect everyone’s opinions (even when you disagree), and trust the process. There is power in numbers.