Equal opportunity data monitoring in education

I stumbled on this article in the Guardian on the value of learning analytics, which indicates a degree of irony in our often unquestioning pursuit of educational improvement:

The University and College Union is wary about using quantitative data sources as a performance management tool. “By their very nature, such sources of data do not take into account a range of other contextual factors which are of critical importance when making judgments about…

…students? engagement? learning? Nope:

… individual staff members’ work,” says its president, Simon Renton.

The article is titled, “Are universities collecting too much information on staff and students?” The answer seems to be “yes” for the former; “no” for the latter. Data mining to improve student learning through top-down measures is almost uniformly accepted; but once you start talking about data mining to improve faculty teaching, well, that’s clearly a matter you wouldn’t want to divorce from the critically important contextual factors that surround the practice.