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Introduction

Starting with a story

David A. Nadler, a theorist and consultant on organisational design and development, in his book Feedback and Organization Development: Using Data-based methods (1977), spearheaded the idea that any organisational change needs to be data-based. However, he adds that “collection and feedback of data do not of themselves lead to lasting organizational change.” It’s the people working with the data who will bring it to action. We share with you a story based on one from Nadler's book to bring you into the world of data and organisational change.

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Not long ago, a CEO of a school's trust became concerned with the health and wellbeing of the pupils across their schools. Having heard that many organisations use surveys as a way of discovering what concerns pupils, they decided it would be worthwhile to use a questionnaire. After a short search online, the CEO found a set of questions about “Pupil Wellbeing” and decided to use those across their organisation.

The survey was soon sent out to all pupils via email. Many pupils didn’t fill out the survey, but the CEO viewed the 35% response rate as good enough to move forward. The CEO asked a member of staff to review the data results and provide an executive summary with a short description of the data.

A week later, when the CEO received the summary report, all the survey points seemed to show that the pupils in the higher year groups had lower scores on their health and wellbeing. The CEO was angry and puzzled. They had already known the higher year groups struggled with their health and wellbeing, so this wasn’t any news. The summary data presented some interesting points, but they didn’t know how to use the data. Meanwhile, the CEO heard from some teachers that pupils have felt even worse since the survey was administered.

The CEO concluded that the survey had not told them anything new, commenting to one staff member that “surveys only tell you what you already know. I know that there are problems with pupils' health and wellbeing. What is the use of bringing up those problems over and over again?”

The CEO concluded that surveys don’t really provide any new insights. In fact, they may make things worse by bringing problems to the forefront of the pupils' minds. They hoped that any further problems caused by the survey would settle down and decided never to do anything that foolish again.

Regrettably, such instances are not uncommon. Many school leaders have employed surveys, questionnaires, or other data-collection methods with the intention of obtaining valuable insights to enhance their schools, only to encounter disappointment when the gathered information fails to teach them anything new and proves challenging to translate into actionable changes.

While this particular situation may be discouraging, the experience of many others has provided a completely different picture. Information can be a useful tool to help change and improve organisations. However, it is only a useful tool if those in the organisation (and any people they are partnering with) understand why information is important, how data can change behaviour, and how to make use of data-based methods. 

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Therefore we’ve developed this guide, to help those in charge of facilitating change in education answer this simple question: “How can we effectively make use of data for improving our schools?”

This guide outlines ways of using information - stakeholder feedback specifically - as a tool, based on research from the field of organisation development, school improvement and practical experience from Edurio’s 9 years in the field.

What’s your starting point?

You’re here, so you have made some sort of commitment to stakeholder feedback. Great! But before we jump in, let’s take a moment to consider your starting point. Did you relate to the story about the CEO? Or have you had more positive examples of using feedback survey data in an actionable way?

Often, the primary change agent looking for stakeholder feedback will be the senior executive leader and their team, taking on the task of collecting feedback and then reporting back to the trust or governing board. There may be situations where the trust wishes to survey all its schools and stakeholders. Sometimes, there may be more specific needs for stakeholder feedback, such as a human resources head or safeguarding officer collecting feedback to inform their role-specific decisions. Depending on your role and what you want to achieve, the type of stakeholder feedback you will collect may differ. However, the process of collecting quality stakeholder feedback is the same.

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Among other things, stakeholder feedback can be a powerful tool for improving education processes and relationships, outcomes and scores in an organisation. Collecting this type of evidence can improve communication, find focus areas, create better alignment and improve accountability.

By integrating stakeholder feedback into your work, you will have a better sense of the strategies and actions that will work for your organisation and the people in it, and will have an easier time defining a clear path for your improvement journey.

To successfully gather information, you need to pay attention to both the content and the process. 

Content

The “what” of the interaction

Example of content:

  • The questions in the survey
  • The decisions from the survey
  • The assignments from the action plan

Process

The “how” of the interaction

Example of process:

  • Who designed the questions
  • How the decisions were made
  • How did teams collaborate for success
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We’re here to help you use stakeholder feedback to become more evidence-informed in your work. In this guide, you will find sources of inspiration and concrete tools to help you gather accurate data and make informed decisions to improve your organisation.

We’ll take you through each step to help you define your goal for collecting stakeholder feedback, give tips on how to design and implement a survey, guide you through analysing and drawing conclusions about your survey results, and provide support for taking the next steps with the data you have collected.

We’re excited to be with you on this journey; let’s get to it! Here’s what you need to know to get started:

What is stakeholder feedback?

Stakeholder feedback is asking the people in your school or trust what they think, feel and experience. Many data points are collected to measure the quality of education. Academic data, such as exam results, is one way to see how your school or trust is doing. However, non-academic data, such as stakeholder feedback, can give equally vital information on how the school is run and how stakeholders feel about it.

Research shows a link between wellbeing and outcomes. For example, if people are unhappy at school, they may achieve less than they would otherwise. Collecting stakeholder feedback and checking in with your people to see how they are doing can have a positive effect on the people and culture of your school or trust, but there are things to keep in mind so that this process is successful. And that is what we're here to help you do with this guide!

The CEO was interested in learning about the wellbeing of his pupils. Any information that would help him learn about this is the feedback, and anyone with this information is a stakeholder. Their information will help him gather an accurate image of the present.

Key stakeholders in education

Teaching and learning are about people, and it is essential to check in regularly with the various stakeholders in your school or trust to understand how they are experiencing the day-to-day processes. The key stakeholders in an education organisation are pupils, staff and parents. Each of these stakeholder groups can give insights into different aspects of the education process, and they are intricately linked. Changes to any one group often affect the other two groups. For accurate data collection in any educational context, we suggest considering these three stakeholders.

For example, if the CEO decided to offer a weekly lesson on healthy habits, pupils would have access to new information about healthy lifestyles, which might improve their situation. However, this would impact the teachers (lesson planning, timetabling) and the parents (pupils may wish to change their diet and exercise routine at home). The decision might be a successful one, but there is a need to consider all the perspectives to find a solution that everyone can get behind.

Different types of stakeholder feedback

Stakeholder feedback can be collected through a variety of channels, such as surveys, interviews, observations, and focus groups. In this guide, we will focus on surveys as an effective tool to collect feedback systematically across your school or trust.

Our CEO could have interviewed several students one-to-one, or hosted a focus group with a small group of students about their wellbeing. He chose to go with the survey, often the tool used to get more voices in an efficient way.

When a survey isn't the best choice

Suppose you don’t know what you need to find out or the topics you want to ask about are hard to recall accurately. In that case, you may need to take a step back and consider if a survey on this topic is really necessary at this point or consider the priorities in your school or trust improvement plan to see if there is another topic or stakeholder group that requires more dedicated attention. A survey may not be the best method for collecting feedback at this time. Consider whether you can find answers to your questions in other ways or continue with this guide to uncover how to get the most out of a survey. 

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Additionally, because collecting and analysing stakeholder feedback data takes time and commitment, being clear on what you wish to achieve and the impact you hope to make will be vital for the road ahead. Data is purely an enabler of action, which means you shouldn’t treat data as the end goal. We will guide you through dedicating time to analyse and take action on your data later in this guide.

WARNING! Be careful that this is not just a tick-box exercise. Asking stakeholders to fill out your survey just for the sake of it can be risky. They might feel you wasted their time, you might have a more challenging time collecting responses in the future, or stakeholder buy-in might be weakened due to asking for stakeholder feedback and not showing any follow-up. That’s why it’s important to consider why you’re doing a stakeholder feedback survey and to make sure you show how responses are impacting the way decisions are made and how things are being done.

How can you do this well?

We believe that stakeholder feedback is a vital piece of evidence to be incorporated into decision-making for any role in the education system. Often, evidence is collected in a reactive way - responding to enquiry or criticism - the need is to prove one's performance. However, when collecting evidence proactively, it can be used to go above and beyond - to improve performance. Evidence-informed leaders look for ways to collect all types of data, analyse the data taking into account their context, to make informed decisions about what next steps need to be taken. Collecting and analysing stakeholder feedback data can be time-consuming, so it is crucial to have responsibilities delegated before you begin the process.

We’re here to help you do this well! This document outlines the practical ‘content’ questions you need to consider in a ‘process’ that has been used by healthy schools around the world. What is required from you is time, energy and the desire to influence your school positively!

What you’ll find in this guide

If you are new to this process, we suggest starting at the beginning and following the steps we’ve outlined to give you all the information you will need to be successful in your stakeholder feedback journey. If you are looking for specific answers, you can dive into the sections that are most relevant to your current needs.

Along with the descriptive guide of each step, in each chapter, you will find materials available in various formats to help you plan your process, execute the strategy and communicate with your stakeholders. We hope you find the materials and templates useful for your work. You are free to:

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Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

Shared survey content, distribution and analysis that cuts workload while giving you more feedback more often.

However, we hope you will respect the time and effort we have put in to make these materials and templates, therefore ask that you:

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Give appropriate credit, and reference the original documents.

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You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

Shared survey content, distribution and analysis that cuts workload while giving you more feedback more often.

Materials & templates

Two informational summary resources accompany this chapter of the hub. You can share and adapt the materials by providing a link to the original documents and indicating if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner but not in any way that suggests that Edurio endorses you or your use.

  • [SLIDE DECK] Introduction to Stakeholder Feedback
  • [ONE PAGER] Why Stakeholder feedback is important!

All additional resources & templates are available for free at home.edurio.com/solutions/stakeholder-feedback/materials. The page is password-protected; you may retrieve the password by completing the form to the right. After form completion, an email containing the password will be delivered to your inbox. 

Key terminology

  • Non-academic data: Data other than academic outcome data. For example feedback surveys, classroom observations, focussed discussions, student attendance.
  • Academic data: Data like student grades, exam scores, graduation rates.
  • Stakeholders: The key stakeholders in an education organisation are pupils, staff members, and parents.
  • Feedback: The views, feelings and experiences of stakeholders.
  • Engagement: The process of listening to, collaborating with and/or informing the stakeholders.
  • Evidence-informed: Collecting all types of evidence, analysing the data, taking into account context, to make informed decisions about what next steps need to be taken to drive improvement.
  • Diagnostic survey: A general feedback survey that covers a broad range of topics.
  • Deep-dive survey: A hypothesis-driven survey on a specific topic.
  • Pulse survey: A survey to measure one small thing frequently to monitor changes more closely.
  • Respondents: Those taking part in the survey (note that they may or may not be the key stakeholders the research is designed to impact)
  • Trust: Multi-academy trust, single-academy trust.
  • Change agent: The person leading the effort to incorporate evidence-informed practices in their school or trust.

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