Understand teacher wellbeing with a super fast survey, once a month!

Learn more about Alpaca Pulse Surveys!

Announcing: Celebration Packs!

Your secret to awesome teacher recognition


What are semantic pulse surveys?

Karen Borchert
May 22, 2024
Quick question: on a scale of 1-5, how do you feel about work?
Finding it difficult to boil down how you feel to a single number? Try this: 
What words would you use to describe work today?

Much better, right? Why? Because work is complicated and hard to sum up in a single number, and because how we feel about work can change every day. That’s true for all of us at work. But in the currently complicated and strained profession of teaching, it’s especially true. 

School leaders must adapt and use collaborative leadership to gain an understanding and connection with their staff, not just once a year when the annual climate survey comes around, but on a consistent, regular basis. A strategy that school leaders are starting to use is semantic pulse surveying. This approach to employee surveying combines the detailed insights you get from semantic differential scales with quick, real-time feedback from pulse surveys. Together, they create a powerful way to boost staff engagement and satisfaction.

What is Semantic Scale Surveying?

Semantic differential scales use a pair of polar-opposite adjectives or phrases to describe different aspects of the object or concept being assessed. Instead of “on a scale of 1-5, how did you like these french fries?” you might ask “would you describe these french fries as “perfectly hot,” “very cold,” or somewhere in between? 

Why It Works: Better participation and nuanced results

By gauging sentiment across different aspects of workplace wellbeing, semantic scales provide the real words that create more insight for leaders that simpler, more traditional rating systems might miss. This in-depth insight is essential for school leaders who want to address their staff’s concerns personally and thoughtfully.

“By measuring attitudes along several dimensions, semantic scales can reveal subtle and nuanced facets of people’s attitudes that may be overlooked by simpler rating scales.”

Qualtrics, "The Complete Guide to Pulse Surveys for Employees"

In short: real words can help leaders understand the nuances of their employees’ experience at work. Let’s move on to pulse surveys. 

What is a Pulse Survey?

A pulse survey is a short set of questions sent to employees on a regular basis. The main goal of a pulse survey is to maintain a continuous feedback loop between staff and leadership, ensuring that everyone’s voices are heard and concerns are addressed. This regular check-in process is crucial, as studies show that employees are much more likely to recommend their workplace if they feel their feedback is valued and acted upon.

“People are 12 times more likely to recommend their employer if they feel like their feedback is being listened to and actioned.”

“77% of employees want to provide feedback more than once per year”

– Qualtrics, "The Complete Guide to Pulse Surveys for Employees"

How to use Pulse Surveys: The 5-6-7 Method!

To implement pulse surveys with their team, school leaders can try the 5-6-7 method! This simple approach to pulse surveying respects staff time while focusing on getting practical, useful feedback.

  • Less than 5 minutes - Teachers’ time is precious! A quick survey is likely to garner more participation than one with a laundry list of questions.

  • About 6 questions is all you need, and all that most of us can take action on in a single month..

  • 70% actionable - Know the next steps to take with the insights you receive!

What about “survey fatigue?”

A common worry that comes with conducting more frequent surveys is the risk of survey fatigue. However, many teams have found that the key to avoiding fatigue isn’t just about how often surveys are sent but how feedback is acted upon and then communicated.

“We have found that the biggest impact on fatigue is not so much survey frequency, it’s program communication: if employees don’t feel that any action is taken with their feedback, or if communication is not managed well.”

– Qualtrics, "The Complete Guide to Pulse Surveys for Employees"

In short, ask often, and use real words.

By combining semantic differential scales with pulse surveys, leaders can gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of staff sentiment, while keeping a continuous dialogue of communication with their team. This method helps ensure that staff feel heard and valued, leading to a more aligned and effective culture!

Free Resource
Get to know your teachers

Supporting your teachers is easier when you know what they need and what motivates each of them.