Data 101: Guiding Principles —10 Years Later

Educational Policies Committee, Sierra College
ASCCC North Representative, Educational Policies Committee

In February 2010, the ASCCC Executive Committee published a white paper titled Data 101: Guiding Principles for Faculty. [1] Since that time, data has become an everyday part of faculty lives throughout California’s community colleges and districts. Data is integral to decision making and student success on college campuses. From guided pathways implementation and the Vision for Success goals, to AB 705 implementation and closing equity gaps, faculty take on a significant role in data-informed discussions and decisions.

The amount and types of data available to faculty have increased exponentially, and data literacy on campuses has also significantly increased. Faculty must understand and utilize data responsibly in order to best assist students in achieving their educational goals. Data not only exposes equity achievement gaps but may also help faculty identify and remove systemic barriers to student success.

Although the Data 101 paper uses a hypothetical example that may seem dated to some, the foundational guiding principles articulated in the paper still resonate and are as applicable today as they were ten years ago. As current initiatives and trends require colleges to consider and use data effectively, faculty should reflect on these principles and consider how they currently impact the work at their colleges.


Principle 1 – Use longitudinal data when possible
Principle 2 – Use data in context
Principle 3 – Look for both direct and indirect data
Principle 4 – Do not oversimplify cause and effect of data
Principle 5 – Use appropriate levels of data for appropriate levels of decisions
Principle 6 – Perception is the reality within which people operate
Principle 7 – Use of data should be transparent
Principle 8 – Consider carefully when to aggregate or disaggregate data
Principle 9 – Focus on data that is actionable

These nine guiding principles provide a starting point from which to critically evaluate data and highlight the importance of responsibly and effectively using data with integrity. All areas of the 10+1 academic and professional matters of academic senate purview require the use of data to make informed decisions. Local academic senates should take the lead in ensuring that faculty are involved in determining how and what data is used in decision-making and have the opportunity for professional development to increase their data literacy.

In the past ten years, faculty have become more involved in the creation, analysis, and use of data. Many faculty have begun to take ownership of data through programs such as data coaching. Data coaches guide teams through the process of collaborative inquiry and engage others in making sense of and responding to data in ways that improve learning for all students. Faculty are not only becoming data experts but are sharing their knowledge with their fellow faculty members.

Faculty should take a leading role in bringing the guiding principles from the Data 101 paper into their college-wide discussions about data. They should ask about longitudinal data and disaggregation, have discussions about whether their institutional data is transparent, and provide the proper context for data discussion. Instruction can only grow stronger when well-informed faculty are active participants in data-driven discussions, recommendations, and decision-making.

1. This paper is available at