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Surveying Adult English Language Learners


I am looking to create a survey for adult ESOL students to identify the most important content areas/topics for a new ESOL curriculum that will be used in classes taught by full-time teachers in New York City. The curriculum will be content based and behavioral change goal oriented. 

My goal is to create a short, simple, and effective survey. I plan to use one of the frequency questions below with a list of topics below it and two open ended questions. The responses follow each question.

Which question below is best? Does following up a frequency question with a yes / no seem redundant? Will it annoy my respondent and negatively impact the quality of responses? Thank you in advance for your input.

Best Regards, 

Lionel Ouellette - Director of Programs -

Survey Questions:

1. How often do you think about these issues? (frequency 1 to 5 - never, seldom, sometimes, often, always).

2. How important are these issues to you? (frequency 1 to 5 - not at all, slightly important, moderately important, very important, extremely important)

3. Which of these topics do you want to know more about?  (Yes / No)

Issues presented will be: public school system, starting a business, banking services, wire transfers, my rights as a worker, immigration, housing, legal services,

support services, relationship with my child, stress reduction, nutrition and exercise, choosing the right doctor, accessing medical services. 

The final question will be open ended.

4. What are some of your biggest challenges as a parent in New York City?

5. What topics, not listed above, do you want to know more about? 




Josh Anderson's picture

Google forms will do this nicely.  You can make one and simply use the link to send anyone to the form.  I had an example in another thread. 

It dumps all the answers into a spreadsheet for you and you can also print a paper version of any individual's responses.

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Lionel,

I agree with Josh that Google Forms is a useful, free tool for surveying students who can access and comfortably use a computer, or possibly a smartphone or tablet to access the Internet. However, you may also need to design the survey in a paper-based, or possibly oral, individual or group interview format, depending on the ESOL students' comfort and skill with reading and writing English.

I received a notice today from AlphaPlus, an adult basic skills organization in Canada that offers great free, "Tech Tuesday" webinars. On June 13th at 3:00 PM  Eastern time, they are offering one on creating and administering online learning satisfaction surveys using Google Forms. If you (or others) are interested, you can register at .

Regarding your questions, Lionel, consider:

1) including a short introduction to your questions explaining why you are asking the students the questions to answer them.

2) whatever term you decide to use: issues, topics, things to learn, to avoid confusion be consistent in using it throughout

3) including clear, specific instructions on what you want the respondent to do, e.g. "For each issue or thing to learn, select how important to you it is to learn about this. 1 is "very important to me"  2. is "important to me" 3 is "a little bit important to me" 4 is "not very important" and  5 is "not important to me at all"

4) When you think you have your survey ready, field-test each of its forms (online, paper-based, oral group interview, etc.) with at least one small group of students, and revise as needed.


I think what you want to know most is how important the student thinks it is for her/him to learn more about each of the issues. If so, I think your question 2 gets at this best. I hope I correctly understood the problem you are trying to solve and that this advice is useful.


David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP



Lionel Leo Ouellette's picture

Hi David,

Thanks for your input. I will report my findings back to the group. 

Have a great week.