How to Leverage Data for Maximum Benefit

Data helps quantify how well you’re doing, informing on student needs, trends, and issues.

It portrays reality, not perception or assumption related to your area. People rarely maximize use of data and it can support just about anything you’re looking to do.

Below are some primary ways with which data can be leveraged.

Sharing Data to Promote

Sharing data can promote and inform on a program, service, or outcome.

Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate your area?

You can also share what changes or improvements have come about as a result of data. Not only does this illustrate data-informed practice, it also lets respondents (often students) know their voices were heard. Capitalize on technology platforms (e.g., LMS, student engagement platforms) to share information to internal stakeholders, as well as media channels (e.g., email, social media) for external stakeholders. Transparency in purpose and results can increase active participation in future assessment efforts.

Analyzing Data to Connect

Analyzing student learning creates a common interest across the university (Maki, 2004).

Even though learning outcomes differ between academic degree programs and various Student Affairs areas, faculty members benefit from knowing effectiveness and impact of institutional resources (like tutoring services, career services, and student organizations) so as to refer and recommend to best support student success.

The Six Principles of Real-Time Student Assessment from Maki’s latest book called Real-Time Student Assessment focus on inclusivity of all campus perspectives and roles to intentionally utilize data to be responsive to needs and equitable in supporting student success. Data must be analyzed and shared beyond the aggregate, communicated in ways to draw in and connect diverse perspectives across campus.

Amplifying Voices With Data

Data can help draw connections of your area to larger institutional initiatives.

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) agrees, encouraging participating institutions to connect data to campus initiatives or priorities in order to capture interest of stakeholders and help likelihood of data-informed action. While your area’s voice may not ordinarily cut through the noise or best be represented among all campus players, it becomes a lot louder and harder to ignore when you can demonstrate with data specific implications for strategic plan initiatives or goals for improving student success. Alignment to larger initiatives works to maintain focus and priority in area efforts, with data supplying insight as to progress or achievement.

While accountability is primary use and purpose for data collection (Ewell, 2009), data can prove beneficial in a number of other ways. As such, be intentional with your data collection efforts.

Make sure you are collecting the data you need and, since it’s needed, take time to analyze, interpret, and act on it. Part of your action should include sharing it with appropriate stakeholders.

Done properly, you can accomplish elements described above and perhaps more.

Your Thoughts!

How are you utilizing data to promote, connect, or amplify current practices or programs?

We’d love to hear from you. Tweet us at @HelloPresence and @JoeBooksLevy to continue the conversation!


Joe Levy

About the author: Joe Levy is the Executive Director of Assessment and Accreditation at National Louis University. Joe is passionate about data-informed decision making, accountability, and promoting a student-centered approach inside and outside of the classroom. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBooksLevy! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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