Using University Level Data for Institutional Research: Possibilities and challenges
Conference poster, 2010
Universities collect student data for a variety of purposes and stakeholders, from student secondary school records to determine who will gain entrance, to student grades for academic progression and graduation, or student engagement and teaching surveys to assess the quality of education. Combining these data sets can yield a richer picture of the institution, programs of study, departments or even individual papers. Resulting analyses can also inform the research on teaching and learning in tertiary settings and be used for professional development purposes and to improve the student learning experience. This poster offers examples of institutional research with combined data sets that has helped university departments develop better pictures of what types of students enter their program, how they progress, what curricular issues were encountered by students, where those issues originated and how they could be effectively addressed. In clarifying this, we will illustrate (a) how using New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) data can used to predict success in first year courses, and (b) how grade variability analyses (performance of the same students in different courses) can identify curricular "cake-walks" or bottlenecks. We present the benefits of these approaches for particular departments or lecturers, such as more accurate information for secondary student advising, improved use of prerequisites, or revision of assessment practices. In addition, there are also challenges in data management and data consistency as well as legal and ethical implications for using existing student data for research purposes that need to be addressed.