Skip to content
nwmissouri.edu  |  844-890-9304

What Is Data Literacy and Why Is it Important for Students?


The importance of data is undeniable. It allows individuals and organizations to make more informed decisions, and data is essential to the success of corporations worldwide. Teachers must recognize this new reality and adapt their curricula accordingly. Failing to emphasize data literacy in the classroom will leave students unprepared to succeed in the real world.

What Is Data Literacy?

Data literacy, according to a recent article published at Smarter With Gartner, is defined as "the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied — and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value." To break down data literacy into simpler terms, here are five competencies, as cited by Phi Delta Kappan, necessary for turning data into actionable initiatives:

  1. Identify problems of practice and frame questions
  2. Use, access, collect or understand data
  3. Convert data to information
  4. Transform information into a decision
  5. Evaluate outcomes

These skills, often referred to as "speaking data," are at the core of how business is currently conducted, and they are crucial to an individual's personal and professional success.

4 Reasons Data Literacy Is Important for Students

Emphasizing data literacy in the classroom will better prepare students for life after graduation. Here are four major reasons students must become data fluent. Data literacy:

  1. Makes communicating with technical teams more efficient

Corporations place a high value on individuals who can collaborate effectively across a variety of disciplines. Should you be asked to work with technical team members, the ability to speak data will help you ask the right questions — and know why you are asking them. According to the article, "5 Reasons Data Skills are Useful for Everyone," understanding data will make you a stronger, more efficient collaborator and increase your value to the company.

  1. Could lead to an important role as an analytics translator

An article on the importance of data skills published at Course Report states that only "4% of companies had the skills or technology to make the best use of the data they collect." As a result, data-fluent employees could earn promotions to the role of analytics translator. This important position typically requires employees with the following aptitudes:

  • Sales, marketing or similar non-technical experience
  • Strong data or analytical skills combined with experience in a variety of cross-functional positions
  • Ability to convert data insights into actionable goals or business decisions that drive value
  1. Increases your value to the organization and the value of your organization

A data literate company is highly valuable. A recent data literacy study cited by Dataversity found that "organizations with the top tier of data literacy had a greater enterprise value of three to five percent. This translated to hundreds of millions of dollars of value and better return on equity." Individuals who can increase the overall data literacy of their organizations should find great success on the job market or when seeking promotions.

  1. May be critical to your future employment prospects

The rise of COVID-19 cases rocked the U.S. economy and shifted the corporate landscape. An article published by the Data Literacy Project states that the "pandemic has accelerated the speed and scale of digital transformation, which of course presents a huge opportunity. Yet, a deficit in digital skills now – on the part of an organization or an individual – has the potential to jeopardize the future competitiveness of both." The youngest job seekers, those under the age of 25, are expected to be most affected by this trend, so data literacy will be essential to graduates who hope to succeed on their first foray into the job market.

Educators who want to prepare students for the realities of an evolving job market will need to emphasize data literacy in their curriculum. A Master of Science in Education (MSEd.) in Curriculum & Instruction – Teaching Technology online program can help teachers develop the necessary tech savviness to foster data literacy among their students.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online MSEd. in Curriculum & Instruction – Teaching Technology program.


Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Request Online Program Information
*All fields required.
or call 844-890-9304 844-890-9304
By submitting this form, I agree, via my digital signature, that Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) may email me or contact me regarding educational services by telephone and/or text message utilizing automated technology or a pre-recorded message at the telephone number(s) provided above. I understand this consent is not required to attend Northwest.