Surveys are the primary source of data collection at iMentor. One of the benefits of using surveys as a tool for data collection is that we are able to gather information from over 5,000 program participants. This would not be feasible with other data collection tools such as personal interviews or focus groups.
The questions we ask allow us to assess progress toward, and achievement of, over 75% of our programmatic outcomes (i.e., development of strong mentoring relationships, college aspirations of mentees, and non-cognitive skill growth of our mentees). Additionally, surveys allow us to review responses from mentors and mentees about their perceptions of the program so that we have the opportunity to continuously improve.
In addition to learning about mentees, we ask mentors if being involved in iMentor has had an impact on them personally or professionally. We use this information to better understand how we can improve the mentor experience and to share with prospective mentors about what they can expect if they volunteer with iMentor.
In order to accurately assess concepts such as non-cognitive skill growth or strong mentoring relationships, researchers develop scales, which are a series of questions or statements intended to measure a concept. iMentor uses these best-in-class scales to provide legitimacy to the questions we are asking as well as increase the rigor of our work as an organization. The reason it may feel that questions are asked in a similar fashion throughout the survey is because every question in the scale needs to be asked and answered to confirm that responses are consistent and authentic.
Despite the fact that our surveys may feel long, we consistently achieve over 90% response rates from mentees and nearly 80% response rates from mentors. These response rates are extremely impressive in the field of social science research and a testament to how invested our mentors and mentees are in the program.
What Does iMentor Do With Survey Data?
Once we have collected survey data, there are a number of things that we are able to do with the information. We use it at a programmatic level to discuss what is working well and areas for improvement. In addition, we share the information with external stakeholders who are interested to see what outcomes we’ve achieved each program year.
Another interesting aspect of how iMentor uses survey data is to compare it to other data we collect throughout the program year. For example, we are able to see if the mentoring relationship develops over time as well as if the mentee and mentor are aligned in their responses to questions about their relationship. We look at how participation (i.e., communicating online and attending events together) effects the relationship that develops.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we are able to measure 75% of our programmatic outcomes as a result of administering surveys to mentees and mentors. Each year, we are very grateful that program participants are willing to complete surveys so that we can continue to run a high-quality program and maximize the experience for all participants.