Reflection on Survey Design & Data Collection




What was the Process used to collect survey data and how the survey was implemented?

Google Forms survey tool – Survey was distributed to learners by school email and then followed up in school messaging systems. Learners filled in the survey on school computers or using their cellphones.



What specific challenges did you come across when collecting survey data – challenges with teachers, children and parents.
Learners were fairly apathetic in filling in the survey , possibly because it was a bit long and it took some effort to complete. Finding time in the school day was difficult too. However if we didn’t find time then , not many would do it in their own time. Teachers were reasonably open to the idea , but didn’t want to give up much time in class. Two of the questions took most of the time. The GPS home question and the distance to school question . They used outside tools and where very necessary but caused the most frustration. If that could be streamlined it would be helpful.



Would you do anything different next time?
Shorter Survey , try to eliminate any questions which didn’t have any value , try to make the GPS and school distance questions easier to do on mobile phone. Don’t leave students to do it on their own time , rather squeeze dedicated slots into a day at school. Rotating learners through the school computer rooms is a helpful strategy if available.



Any tips that will help other schools in the future go through this process?
Buy in at school management level about dedicating the time in the school day to do the survey.


Problems learners had with regard to filling in survey

  • Understanding some of the questions and some did not apply to me.
  • I live at Waterloo Hostel so most of the questions didn’t apply to me.
  • The option to add more than one location that you travel to and from.
  • Some questions were unclear for me to understand.
  • Trying to figure out what to do in the extra navigation links.
  • I didn’t understand some of the questions.
  • Some of the questions confused me.
  • Consider the girls that dont go home after school and go to sport outside of school
  • Some of the questions weren’t very clear and when I pressed the wrong button for whether I took a car, bus or taxi etc. and i tried to change it, it wouldn’t allow me to.


Earlier Articles in the Series 

Part 1  Sustainable Transport Collaboration

Part 2  Data Gathering for Sustainable Transport 


Data Gathering for Sustainable Student Transport




After receiving a list of possible questions around school transport from Dan,  I started the process of adding them into a Google Form, so that capturing the survey data would be far easier. I then added what I thought were pertinent questions and circulated the final result amongst our email group for feedback. After that feedback and some additional feedback from someone in Transport Modelling we generated the form below.

Transport Survey that went out to Learners at WBHS & WGHS


Getting Students & Staff to Fill in the Form

The next challenge was to actually get the learners and staff to fill out the form. The main issue was the GPS co-ordinates question as you needed to use an external web tool, which took time. The grades we were most successful with were GR8 & GR9. They have a weekly lesson in the computer room which allowed us a clearly defined time to do the survey. It was much harder to get the GR10-12’s to participate in the survey. All in all, we bugged people for about 4 weeks to get as much Data as we did.


The Results

In the end we managed to collect the following Raw Data. This then needed to be processed for input errors and refined into meaningful Data. The WWF paid for the services of an external firm to do this processing. The results can be seen in the PDF below.


Brett Cohen_Survey Results_Scholar Transport.pptx


Earlier Articles in the Series 

Part 1  Sustainable Transport Collaboration


Sustainable Transport Collaboration




At the beginning of 2017 a friend & colleague of mine who runs the Environmental Club at the school where I work, was invited to be part of a project with the WWF to reduce carbon emissions. The focus of project was environmentally sound changes in school transport. School transport is a major contributer to carbon emissions in the economy and the hope was that this project could generate insight into what changes or shifts could be effected to reduce emissions. I became involved in the project because of my connection to Carynn and my shared values as regards the importance of sustainable societies and preservation of the natural environment. I also felt like I could learn a lot from being involved in the Data Analysis component of the project.


Getting Going

Our first task was to assemble all the those involved for a physical meeting. This happened at WGHS in January 2017 and the main focus was to determine the project goals. The meeting included people from the WWF, WGHS and external parties with specialised Transport knowledge.


First Meeting Agenda 

  • Motivation for and explanation of WWF’s project, and capacity offered
  • List all the transport-related issues at the school and across the four campuses
  • Identify which WWF can help with & prioritise the top three
  • Brainstorm ideas of what could be done about them
  • Plans – checklist of questions for each selected initiative:
  • Who has to be informed?
  • What do we hope to achieve by the end?
  • Who will need to actively participate? How do we best reach and motivate them?
  • What information has to be gathered? How do we determine a baseline?
  • Can any aspects be turned into a project for the learners?
  • How will we monitor progress and outcomes?
  • What are the next steps?


First Meeting Summary Notes (Thanks Dan!)

Pain Points

  • Parking , Congestion (7am-8am and 3-330pm) – start and end of school day,
  • 1 kid in every car
  • Reliability of trains not good
  • Cycling – road safety, crime. To be addressed
  • Kids don’t want to stay at school and wait

Other points made

  • Taxis are used (Wynberg taxi rank)
  • Trains are used
  •  Need for flexibility – multi stop trips.
  •  Walk (some)
  •  Contract with Golden Arrow for bus. School specific – busses not full. Why can’t bus leave later?
  •  There are some busses
  • Do survey on how people travel to school (home location, times come to and leave school)
  • Know the distance learners travel to/from school – Required to calculate emissions.
  • Waves of transport
  • Uber Pool ?
  • Lift clubs can have a great impact
  • School Travel Plan can have a positive impact and form as basis of project
  • Learners should be actively involved in promoting selected interventions among other learners
  • Fun competitions could help increase use of selected interventions
  • An Active Travel month could help encourage learners to try different modes

Interventions/actions to address pain points

  • Survey of modes (distance traveled,  home location, times they leave for school and home)
  • Monitor car occupancy
  • Uber Pool and other potential route planner solutions like WIMT and GoMetro
  • Bus routes + timetables (taxis, trains, GABS, BRT)
  • Cycling and Walking
  • Lift clubs
  • School facilities – hang out
  • Waves of transport
  • Traffic flow
  • Green driving’ training for parents

Problems to overcome

    • Understand demand (homes, times, modes, etc.)
    • Understand what services are available
    • Demand management – spatial
    • Traffic planning
    • Forcing people to not park (shrinking car enablers)
    • Less Private Car use
    • Carpooling (committed to all cars in area and not just 1 car)
    • Increased Public Transport and NMT Use
    • On demand public transport (to the home) – dial a ride sort of service (taxi)
    • Spines and Feeders
First and Last mile
    • Behavioral Change Can be product of marketing different transport options
    • Facilitate ways on behavioral change
    • Commute Log


Next steps

  • WWF to share potential survey questions
  • Launch concept with principal and teachers and SGB
  • Enviro club assembly launch
  • Survey learners to find baseline and decide on which interventions to focus on



After the meeting I was struck by the strong sense of purpose everyone involved seemed to share. I also liked the fact that there was a diversity of views at the table and all seemed to permeate into the discussion. Having the WWF co-ordinate as project leader together with motivated teachers on the ground co-ordinating and gathering information seemed like a good fit for making something happen. The main focus of the first term would be, designing a survey to gather baseline data and then going about collecting that data. From an initial list of questions drawn up by Dan, I set about creating an online survey form for this purpose. I then added what I thought were pertinent questions and circulated the form for feedback. After several rounds of feedback and some helpful advice from a Transport Modeller courtesy of Gerard’s contacts, we had a form we could use. I then set about circulating the form as well as encouraging & persuading learners to fill it in.