Focus on data quality to boost educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in higher education

Professor Neil Drew and Dr Judith Wilks have collaborated on a research project to enhance the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education data

14 October 2015

A breakthrough collaborative research project by The University of Notre Dame Australia and Southern Cross University will provide solutions to the challenges associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data in higher education and in turn better student outcomes.

Funded through a $50,000 grant by the Australian Government’s Office for Learning & Teaching, the research explored the underlying assumptions and current approaches to understanding the complex nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics in higher education.

Titled: ‘Developing a Culturally Appropriate Data Quality Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Statistics’, the project was led by Professor Neil Drew from Notre Dame’s Broome Campus and Dr Judith Wilks from Southern Cross University.

The research identified a number of data quality issues surrounding identified in data collection and statistical practices higher education. These have the potential to result in misinformation, poorly directed funding or programs that do not meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Some of these issues included the lack of Indigenous data from some sources, culturally inappropriate data collection methods, timeliness of reporting and the impact of cultural and racial issues in data use and misuse.

According to Professor Drew and Dr Wilks, approaches to enhancing the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education data should include the following:

  • the creation of a systematic national approach and best practice guidelines for the establishment, collection, recording and usage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data;
  • collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to investigate and develop best practice guidelines; and
  • ensuring that perspectives, aspirations, needs and standpoints of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are embedded in the establishment and interpretation of this data.

“Our research centres on Recommendation 35 of the 2012 Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which encourages collaboration between the Australian government and universities to develop an Indigenous higher education monitoring and evaluation framework,” Professor Drew said.

“We hope that this research can enhance the shared statistical literacy of all stakeholders in higher education which we believe will lead to improved educational outcomes from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.”

Dr Wilks says that without quality data it is impossible to know if targets associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in higher education are being met.

“It’s not just about knowing how many students are enrolling, but what are the qualities of their experiences once they commence, for example, aspects such as retention rates, take-up of postgraduate studies, scholarships and other opportunities,” Dr Wilks said.

“The key thing is that it’s not just about having better data, it’s about the strategic and culturally beneficial ways in which it is collected, shared, stored, and utilised.”

To download a copy of this report, please visit the OLT website.

MEDIA CONTACT
Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093; leigh.dawson@nd.edu.au