Survey Content

The Research Behind the Survey Design

Family Surveys

The four elements that Christenson and Sheridan (2001) necessitate for optimising successful parental interest (defined in this study as an umbrella term to encapsulate parental engagement & involvement) were used to scaffold the family survey’s question content.

1. Approach: The Framework for Interaction with Families


2. Attitudes: The Values & Perceptions About Family Involvement


3. Atmosphere: The Climate in Schools for Families & Educators


4. Actions: The Strategies for Building Shared Responsibility

Christenson & Sheridan, 2001

Staying true to, and building upon, the project’s aims this lead to the development of 4 broad questions to answer:

  1. Approach: What do parents hope their child will achieve through Early Years education?
  2. Attitudes: How do parents believe their child will learn best in Early Years education?
  3. Atmosphere: What role do parents believe they should play in supporting their child’s Early Years education?
  4. Actions: What can we [the working party] do to support high quality family interest in our settings?

Four open-ended questions (in keeping with research’s trend to include a median of three open-ended questions (Tran, et al., 2016)) were purposefully included to echo the study’s sub questions.

Sharing the ambition, survey format

The content of the survey questions, and pre-determined answer choices, was researched systematically to ensure each question could be considered a ‘reliable and valid measure’ (Fowler, 1995; page 2).

See below – hover your mouse over each (Q.) to read the question in the survey.

Research Linking to Questions

Link to Research Sub-QuestionResearch Informing QuestionsDerived Questions
1. Approach
What do parents hope their child will achieve through Early Years education?
The aims of Early Years education (Q1.) , in introducing the curriculum, can be split into goals for personal (Q2.) and academic (Q3.) development: children with personal attributes, able to apply their academic learning across all aspects of life (The Scottish Government, 2009).1. 2. 3.  
2. Attitudes
How do parents believe their child will learn best in Early Years education?
In asking parents to reflect upon the ideal learning experience for their child (Q4.), the HIME quality indicator of ‘Learning, Teaching and Assessment’ (Education Scotland, 2016) created four foci: classroom climate and environment (Q5.), play as a pedagogical approach (Q6.), engaging learning experiences (Q7.) and quality staff interactions (Q8.).4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
3. Atmosphere
What role do parents believe they should play in supporting their child’s Early Years education?
The impact of parental interest can be considered as knowledge of (see previous questions), attitudes towards (including motivation (Q9.), roles (Q10.) and confidence (Q11.) (Bermúdez & Márquez, 1996)) and practices within, their child’s educational setting (Breiner, et al., 2016). This includes both home (Q12. & Q13.) and school-based (Q14.) parental interest.9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.
4. Actions
What can we [the working party[ do to support high quality family interest?
Considering family voice and presence and school-based (Q15.) allows for successful parental interest strategies that are ‘fluid, robust, and specific to context and culture(McKenna & Millen, 2013;page 9). 15.

Research Linking to Answer Categories

Link to Research Sub-QuestionResearch Informing Answer Categories Questions
1. Approach
What do parents hope their child will achieve through Early Years education?
(Q1.)*
(Q2.): The fundamental aim of Early Years education is learning; the life-long process (McGowan, 1995) defined as actively integrating knowledge, skills and attitudes (Silberman, 1996). Knowledge was characterized as ‘knowing facts, concepts and definitions’ (Baartman & de Bruijn, 2011; page 127) whilst examples to illustrate the meaning of attitudes (covering habits, beliefs and values (Mona & Poonam, 2017)) and skills were taken from ‘Building the Curriculum 4’ (The Scottish Government, 2009), or more specifically from the section detailing ‘The Purpose of the Curriculum.’
(Q3.): A combination of attributes relating to intellect and personality were selected (Stevenson & Stigler, 1994) to reflect the difference between ‘being and behaving’ (Souto-Manning, 2014; page 612) and account for the ethnocentric motivations of parents placing more focus on developing characteristics of one, over the other (Rogoff, 2003). In the hope of relating to the study’s sample (as the majority of parents seek parenting advice from online sources (Baker, et al., 2017)), the ten response categories were adapted from a parenting blog, named ‘10 Key Characteristics You Need to Teach Your Child’ (Street, 2015). The categories were modified in terms of language (ensuring they were suitable for the Scottish context) and to ensure an equal spread between academic and social/emotional/behavioural characteristics.
2. Attitudes
How do parents believe their child will learn best in Early Years education?
(Q4.)*
(Q5.):Whilst at school, a child’s physical learning environment can be considered their third teacher (after the teacher and child themselves) (Valentine, 2006) and, as such, has a great impact upon their development (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2006). Flexible (in terms of space, furnishings and room arrangement (Harms, et al., 2014)) learning environments (including indoor and outdoor components (Zamani, 2016)) elicit more meaningful play (Blasi & Hurwitz, 2002) and engage more higher order cognitive processes (Berti, et al., 2019) than their traditional counterparts (Campbell, et al., 2013). Flexible, traditional and a combination, were offered as response categories.
(Q6.):Play is vital in driving a child’s development (VanHoorn, et al., 2015), and is recognised by the Scottish government as a ‘life-enhancing daily experience’ (The Scottish Government, 2013;page 5). However, the current focus on academics has meant parents, whilst appreciating play as important, just see it as for fun (Rothlein & Brett, 1984) and no longer understand its value within formal education, as a learning tool (Warash, et al., 2017).
(Q7.):Parents can categorise both structured and un-structured activities as play, creating three types of parent (according to their views on what constitutes, and is valued within, play); traditional, all play and uncertain (Fisher, et al., 2008). The response categories reflected these three types of parent in providing examples of their preferred learning activities, respectively: adult let input (Parveen, et al., 2011) and worksheets (Looi & Toh, 2014); child led, child chosen play activities (Ephgrave, 2018); a combination of the two.
(Q8.):These different types of learning activity require different balances of power, or ownership, between teachers and children (Gronlund, 2010). As such, the three types of parent expect staff to; focus on academic skills (Walsh, et al., 2006) e.g. through ability group teaching (Sukhnandan & Lee, 1998); appreciate not everything worth learning can be taught through formal instruction (Rose & Rogers, 2012), using observation as a key means of planning, tracking and assessment (Sancisi & Edgington, 2015; Fisher, 2016); use a combination of the two.
3. Atmosphere
What role do parents believe they should play in supporting their child’s Early Years education?
(Q9.):A child cannot be educated in isolation from the effects of their environment (Hill, 2019) which, in terms of parental interest, can be home and school-based. This allows for the extrapolation that factors influencing a child’s development (separated here into two broad categories: social/emotional/behavioural and academic (Puccioni, et al., 2019)) can be home and school-based. The chosen examples were taken from those identified by NHS Health Scotland (White, 2018) as affecting educational attainment: dynamics (used here to encapsulate family characteristics including structure and income, and physical environment including community links and housing); relationships; and learning environment (including resources, aspirations and activities).
(Q10.):The ratio of responsibility for a child’s education is known to fluctuate between schools/teachers and families/parents depending upon their motivation (e.g. role (as parent or teacher), self-perceptions and expectations (of parent or teacher) (Reed, et al., 2000)). Many parents believe that, once their child is enrolled in formal education, the school assumes full responsibility for their educational outcomes: a perception that is often found to be a barrier to improving parental interest (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011). As such it was also included as a response category.
(Q11.):Low parental interest is often attributed to parents’ lack in confidence and capabilities, with many school-initiated strategies targeted at improving both (Dunst, 2010). This refers to both educational (Averill, et al., 2016) and parenting support (Davis, 2000). A likert-type scale was chosen to allow parents to reflect upon their level of confidence.
(Q12. & Q13.) *
(Q14.):Campbell’s (2011) framework, based upon Epstein’s (2010) taxonomy, presented seven categories of strategy for improving parental interest. Each was used as a response category. For greater clarity, a distinction between academic and other communication was also made. The most pertinent examples of each were chosen from the framework, based upon the researcher’s experience within a Scottish school.
4. Actions
What can we [the working party[ do to support high quality family interest?
(Q15.)*

Please note, questions with an * are open-ended questions which, whilst included to demonstrate their link to the research sub-questions, were not informed by specific research in the sense of creating answer categories.

This research created an initial survey draft which which you can read here.

2 thoughts on “Survey Content

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: