Book Reviews

#1807 New Directions for Student Services: Using Data-Informed Decision Making to Improve Student Affairs Practice, Goodman, Kathleen M., Cole, Darnell, ISBN: 978-1-1194-5951-4, $25.00

Allison Mundorff

Mustang Success Center

Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo


Using Data-Informed Decision Making to Improve Student Affairs Practice emphasizes the power of data to garner institutional support with the potential to positively impact students. This volume of New Directions for Student Services is edited by Kathleen Goodman and Darnell Cole whose inspiration came from observing the disconnect between the large amount of data collected by campuses and the lack of utilization of this data to inform decisions (p. 5). Readers are encouraged to delve into existing data and compare it to other institutions nation-wide. If an advisor is looking for information on creating their own assessments there may be other more appropriate resources. 

The first several chapters broadly introduce the role of data in Student Affairs with the remaining five chapters focusing on specific student populations. This publication can therefore be read in its entirety or the reader can easily select the topics most pertinent to their goals. For example, Chapter 1: You Don’t Have to Be a Research Expert to Use Data Effectively, is applicable to assessment done at a program or college level and could be read as a stand-alone article. The editors focus on welcoming, accessible articles for the first few chapters which may be too introductory for an advisor more experienced in data analysis. Instead, someone in this position could select topics from the later chapters à la carte, which drill down into relevant tools and resources based on specific student populations.

As the name suggests, the articles focus on applying data to Student Affairs. However, many topics are also relevant to Academic Advising such as: diversity and inclusivity, faculty/student interactions, and specialized populations such as online learners (to name a few). With just a little digging it is possible to find advising-specific data within the national surveys referenced in the text. For example, the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) has a module on student engagement with academic advising (The Trustees of Indiana University, 2017). With this data, you could compare your institution to the national responses and create a compelling justification for increasing programming, training, or funding in a particular area.

Throughout the volume, readers are taught to evaluate data with a critical eye. Examining the methods used to analyze data can benefit individual efforts and encourage advisors to ask probing questions about data they encounter. As mentioned in Ch. 8: Using Data to Guide Diversity Work and Enhance Student Learning, “how the data is disaggregated and who spends time with the data can influence both the findings and the commitment of the institution taking responsible action” (p. 98). If someone is reading the book in its entirety, the editors have ended with the most thought-provoking article warning the reader to use data thoughtfully and cautiously. 

Contributing authors, Kathleen Goodman and Buffy Turton, summarized the why of data perfectly and concisely in their statement, “Team members and collaborative partners will be more receptive to new ideas when these ideas are connected to assessment data, and data-informed dialogue allows those involved in planning to focus on outcomes rather than individual opinions” (p. 17). If an advisor hopes to delve into analyzing data from national surveys in a non-intimidating publication and/or further understand non-dominant populations through the population-specific articles, this is a helpful and approachable starting point.

Works Cited

The Trustees fo Indiana University. (2017). 2017 topical module: Academic advising. Retrieved from NSSE - National Survey of Student Engagment:

Posted in: 2017 Book Reviews
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