A Growing Culture of Evidence? Findings From a Survey on Data Use at Achieving the Dream Colleges in Washington State
Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving outcomes among community college students, especially low-income students and students of color. A central ATD strategy is to promote a “culture of evidence,” in which colleges collect, analyze, and make decisions based on information about students in order to inform improvements in practice. This report examines the use of data on students by faculty, administrators, and student services staff at six Washington State colleges that joined ATD in 2006–2007. Surveys were administered to faculty and administrators in 2007 and to faculty, administrators, and student services staff in 2010. We analyzed the survey data in order to understand differences in data use between the three groups (faculty, administrators, and student services staff) and to understand whether there were changes in the frequency and extent of data use between the two survey waves at the participating colleges.
The following are the main findings of our analysis: Administrators were more frequent and intensive users of student outcomes data and research from their college than faculty or student services staff. Most faculty and student services staff did not examine student progression or use outcomes data on a regular basis. Although the frequency with which faculty used data on student progression and completion did not increase between the two waves of the survey, their use of data to inform teachingrelated decisions did increase. Most faculty did not use administrative data, such as data from their college’s student information system. Faculty members’ use of data was correlated with their department’s use of data.
Overall, there was broad use of data by administrators and of certain types of data by faculty and student services staff, but there remain opportunities for increasing the use of student data in the Washington State ATD colleges. To further promote the use of data in support of improved student success, ATD colleges in Washington State and elsewhere should consider ways to better connect the data collected and reported to the primary focus of faculty on instruction, and they should consider ways to engage student services staff more in the use of data on student progression, given their interest in student retention.
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