Evaluating a personal questionnaire method for the appraisal of student concerns: A pilot study.
The aim of this project was to evaluate the use of personal questionnaires as a form of enquiry into the individual experience of university students, and as a possible guide to student support processes. The general background to the work is a university initiative to develop research into student counselling and psychological support, within which the project starts to address the systematic understanding of student needs and concerns.
A rationale for the use of personal questionnaires with student populations was considered in comparison with features of psychometric approaches to the assessment of psychological variables in clinical and educational settings. This pilot study intended to explore how students engage with personal questionnaires in a range of university settings, and to obtain evaluations of participating students and associated staff relating to the impact, relevance and utility of personal questionnaires.
Trials of personal questionnaire formats were conducted in three academic and four support sites over a three-month period in the latter half of the academic year. One hundred and seventeen students participated in questionnaire trials on two university campuses; eleven staff in advisory and counselling settings participated in evaluation interviews. Outcomes were analysed using descriptive statistics of questionnaire use and a content summary of semi-structured interviews.
Allowing for the stated limitations of the project, including the small quantity of student feedback, the findings indicate that personal questionnaires enable students to present an authentic account of experiences subject to the influence of personal and contextual variables. Interview data suggest that these include level of emotional arousal, the motivation to engage in self-reflection, and the availability of a reflective space or facilitating relationship.
Based on these findings, proposals are made for more extensive and specific research into personal questionnaire use with students; and for consideration of their integration as elements in the overall appraisal of student support.
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