The Hard Numbers: Data Sharing

By Courtney Hagan, Ph.D., SEG Research Associate


Evaluation requires data analysis to ensure that a project or program is making progress on its stated objectives and goals (e.g., increasing retention by 2% every year). Evaluators will request data from project or program teams on a regular basis to help ensure that these data points are included in evaluation reporting. Four tips to help ensure the proper transfer of data when working with your evaluation team are:


1. Make a data sharing plan. As stated in our October 2022 blog, “Maintaining a Project Documentation Archive”, setting up a secure shared folder is important for sharing information with your evaluator; this includes sharing data as well.


2. Involve your data people. Share the evaluation plan and data needs early with the data people in your organization (e.g., institutional research) so that they can provide insight on what they can readily provide, ask questions, and offer refinements. It can be helpful to e-introduce the evaluator and your institutional data point-of-contact.


3. Review your data request (aka "data call"). Your evaluator will request specific data items from your team. These data items align with the evaluation matrix that was created based on your project or program design. Often these data items are accompanied by definitions, since terms such as "student persistence" or "student engagement" can be defined differently on each campus. Only data that is requested needs to be uploaded in the shared folder.


4. Ensure your data is accurate, clean, and interpretable. Sometimes the data calls can come at inopportune and busy times; however, it is important to ensure the data is accurate, clean, and interpretable to third parties to facilitate data analysis by the external evaluator. Further, your evaluation team may request individual-level data (instead of aggregate), to ensure that the team can make the calculations on their own (as an objective third party). Because this data is requested at the individual-level, it is advisable to de-identify the data by using student ID numbers instead of student names.


As always, every evaluation project is unique. Therefore, it is best practice to consult with your evaluation team to make the best determination with how and in what ways you should be sharing your data.


Related post: In our October 2022 blog, we discussed sharing project documentation with your evaluator (Maintaining a Project Documentation Archive).