Section 8.2 Participation Rates

Section 8.2 Participation Rates

Section 8.2 Participation Rates

High participation rates are desirable because they ensure a more representative sample from the population of interest (in the case of SET, the students completing the module/stage/programme) and decrease the probability that the views of group sampled will be significantly different from the non-respondents.


There is no readily available answer as to what constitutes an acceptable response rate, or the desirable minimum response rate should be (Palmer, 2011), though several suggestions have been made.


Kidder (1981) purports that a response rate of 50% is satisfactory, while the Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee (2001) advocates the considerably higher figure of 70%. Between these two Johnston and Owens (2003) suggest that the minimally acceptable response rate for research published in reputable journals was 60%, and Brennan and Williams (2004) urge caution when response rates are below 30%.


While this may be achievable in traditional face-to-face type methods of SET participation rates it’s well established that participation tends to be lower with online surveys (Avery et al., 2006; Wongsurawat, 2011). While the response rates for online SET vary Harris et al. (2010) report that the average response rate to electronic surveys is 34%.


Despite this distinct difference between online and paper surveys (see Section 4.6.3 for more information) it was found that this digital/paper dichotomy had no significant effect on evaluation ratings (Layne, DeCristoforo, & McGinty, 1999) or on non-response bias (Barkhi & Williams, 2010), and Chang (2005) reported that although the ratings scores were influenced by the survey method, the validities and reliabilities were not. Furthermore, Palmer (2011) proposed that a lower response is acceptable if there is good evidence that the sample remains representative of the desired population.


Participation is not a straight forward issue therefore and requires consideration both before and after conducting a SET.


Activity 8.2


Given the information above, the way to ensure a valid representation of student opinion participation rates must either exceed 60%-70%, or ensure a representative sample of the desired population.

How would you propose to do each for both online and face-to-face SET?

Face-to-Face Online
Increase participation
Ensure representation


Back to 8.1 Continue to Section 8.3 Back To Section 8

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