New Guidebook Helps Colleges and Universities Understand Their Students Better

Released by Achieving the Dream and Advising Success Network

SILVER SPRING, MD—Achieving the Dream (ATD) announced the release of a new guidebook for leaders of community colleges and four-year colleges and universities, published by Achieving the Dream and Advising Success Network.

For the past few decades, institutions of higher education have been making strides in the collection and use of data to inform their decisions. From enrollment data to student surveys, outcome metrics to predictive analytics, institutions collect more information on how their students move through their educational journey than ever before. These data have informed decisions on almost every aspect of the institution, providing leaders with tangible evidence of what’s working and what needs to be addressed to increase student success. Yet, while data have helped develop a more sophisticated understanding of institutional effectiveness, the understanding of students has remained somewhat one-dimensional.

The Knowing our Students Guidebook was developed to fulfill the need for institutions to understand their students. The guidebook is a resource for institutional leaders and student success teams who are ready to talk openly about the students they serve and who are eager to learn practical strategies from national experts and peer institutions. The guidebook shares the latest knowledge, examples, and tools about:

  • What it means to really know your students
  • What data points are useful
  • How these data can be used effectively
  • Challenges you might encounter
  • What is known about how to overcome these challenges?

Each section provides tips, tools, guidelines, and resources to promote a deeper understanding of students. Questions and tools are provided at the end of each section, to help apply the learnings from that section to one’s own work. Examples from the field illustrate how institutions are working to successfully deepen their understanding of their students, how these data are used in decision-making, and what they are learning along the way.

“It is critical that we know our students in new and deeper ways in order to redesign the institution to best support them. This guidebook, written after careful research, is a collaboration of ATD leaders and coaches, working with our partner organizations to develop this valuable resource,” says Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Of course, there always new questions the field needs to answer and we will update this guidebook as we learn more about designing our institutions to serve the whole student.”

Guidebook writers include ATD leaders and coaches: Dr. Laurie Fladd, Laurie Heacock, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Julia Lawton, Dr. Sharmaine Pechac, Dr. Devora Shamah, and Amber Woodruff. In addition to ATD, ASN partner organizations who also contributed input to ensure the guidebook is comprehensive and relevant to a wide range of institutions include American Association of State Colleges and Universities; EDUCAUSE; NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising; and The National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition.

View the guidebook here.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 300 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing equity gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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