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Holistic Student Supports

Knowing Our Students: Understanding & Designing for Success

| Released by Achieving the Dream and Advising Success Network

Research & Reports
May 13, 2021

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.

On May 13, 2021, Achieving the Dream 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.

The Knowing our Students: Understanding & Designing for Success 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?

Download the study
Download the design brief worksheet
Download the student needs assessment worksheet

Knowing Our Students: Understanding & Designing for Success

Tools, tips, guidelines

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.

Collaborative effort

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.

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