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Shortcomings of the written survey questionnaire for discovering language learner perceptions: reflections of a researcher

Gary P. Barkhuizen


In this article I describe my reflections on using a written survey questionnaire to investigate, on a large-scale, students' perceptions of studying Xhosa as a first language in high schools. I describe the aims of the project, how the questionnaire was designed, and the problems I encountered with the analysis of the data. The problems can be categorised as follows: poor survey design; not doing enough with the responses; questions which only scratch the surface; and, respondents not knowing how to answer questions appropriately. Example questions from the questionnaire are given to illustrate these shortcomings. Recommendations for avoiding similar problems are given. The focus in this article is on the problem questions only; most of the questions on the 80-item questionnaire were successful in capturing the desired responses. The study as a whole, therefore, was a success.

(Journal for Language Teaching: 2002 36(3-4): 259-272)