As a result of my coursework at PSU (cert in Institutional Research) and the Data & Decisions Academy (AIR), I was able to make some serious headway on my first institutional research projects for my campus: 1) cohort study of Fall 2012 and 2013 first-time, full-time, first year students – looking at patterns/differences between the cohorts and retention patterns within the cohorts; and 2) efficacy/impact of paired courses on campus.
The cohort study creates a baseline for on-going comparison in a longitudinal fashion. It also provided some insights for our EMT Strategic plan – for working with students in the mid to upper SAT ranges who do not persist. The paired courses study provides support to increase the number of paired courses for first-semester students given the success of ENGL 5/ENGL 15 pairing and LLED 005/BiSC 003 pairing.
This has been a serious learning curve – from data collection (understanding data warehouse and Qualtrics, for example) to data and statistical analysis (data reporting, correlation, and regression) to institutional policies (IRB & FERPA considerations), to IPEDS definitions of terms to build consistent cohorts, to increasing the number of faculty-led SoTL studies on campus – this effort has born (and I hope will continue to bear) much good fruit!
I find the more I learn, the more I NEED to learn, and I have so far to go! Importantly, I feel I have found a “hobby” that I really enjoy – working with data and learning to tell the story that the data want to reveal. As a colleague in IR at PSU Alex Yin once said, [I'm paraphrasing] – “It is like being a detective and then learning to tell the story of what the data is revealing.” I can see this will take years to really get confident at this and proficient. But I am enjoying it tremendously and little by little, I am making progress.