Advising Tip Sheets - Winter 2011/12
Tip Sheet Number 2:
Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience. What better way to honor our students, than to ask them about their college experiences? By taking what they say seriously, we can implement ideas that can help students succeed and prosper on our campuses.
Enhancing Students’ College Experience with Specific Advising Suggestions
- Interactive relationships organized around academic work are vital.
A common wisdom exists that the best advice for students, in addition to attending classes and doing homework, is: get involved in campus activities. Yet there is a different kind of involvement, a more subtle kind that is stressed by the happiest and academically most successful undergraduates.
Nearly without exception, some students have at least one, and often more than one, intense relationship built around academic work with other people. Some have it with a professor. Others have it with an advisor. Some build it with a group of fellow students outside of the classroom. The critical point is that this relationship is not merely social. Nearly without exception, students who feel they have yet to „find themselves‟ report that they have not developed such relationships.
Advisors should encourage students to work in small study groups outside of classes. While this may be easier to implement on residential campuses than on commuter campuses, it is still important for students to meet and work collaboratively on their academic assignments especially for classes in math, engineering, the sciences, and courses requiring writing.
- Students value strong writing skills. Many benefit enormously from specific suggestions.
Students who improve their writing describe an intense and fairly specific process working with a professor, a writing teacher, or most often with a small group of fellow students who meet regularly to critique on another's writing. The longer this work-related engagement lasts, the greater the improvement. (The Writing Center at University of Detroit Mercy located in Briggs Building 135, contact: 313-993-1022)
- Choose a portfolio of classes wisely - consider class size.
Many new students choose individual courses based upon the familiar or the intriguing. Yet choosing individual courses is different from putting together a group of courses that can lead to a productive term. Although some students take class size into account when choosing a course, a significant minority don't. This could be a mistake. Students who choose at least one small course each term have, on the average, a significantly better overall experience than those who don‟t. These differences carry through the students' college careers.
4. Some undergraduates are thrilled with their college experience, while others are disappointed.
This simple observation has major implications for advisors. When talking with first year students, advise them not to just choose large, introductory courses during first and second years at college. Instead, capitalize on the strengths of each student and encourage them to “stretch” and take at least one smaller, more focused, more challenging class where they will have to talk, write, and become engaged.
Developmental Academic Advising
In 1972, Burns B. Crookston wrote an article in the Journal of College Student Personnel titled "A Developmental View of Academic Advising as Teaching" - the term developmental academic advising was born.
Developmental academic advising is both a process and an orientation. It reflects the idea of movement and progression. It goes beyond simply giving information or signing a form. As Raushi (1993) suggests, "to advise from a developmental perspective is to view students at work on life tasks in the context of their whole life settings, including the college experience" (p. 6). Developmental academic advising recognizes the importance of interactions between the student and the campus environment, it focuses on the whole person, and it works with the student at that person's own life stage of development. Numerous authors (Creamer, 2000; Creamer & Creamer, 1994; Raushi 1993; Winston, et. al., 1984) show that developmental advising is grounded in theory, including cognitive developmental theory, psychosocial theory, and person-environment interaction theory, as well as in theories that focus on specific populations.
Developmental advising is based on "the belief that the relationship itself is one in which the academic advisor and the student differentially engage in a series of developmental tasks, the successful completion of which results in varying degrees of learning by both parties." Frost (2003) notes that "developmental advising understands advising as a system of shared responsibility in which the primary goal is to help the student take responsibility for his or her decisions and actions" (p. 234).
In conclusion, Winston, et. al. (1984) describe academic advising as follows: "Developmental academic advising is defined as a systematic process based on a close student-advisor relationship intended to aid students in achieving educational, career, and personal goals through the utilization of the full range of institutional and community resources" (p.19).To advise a student developmentally, Kramer (1999) suggests the following:
- Know/apply student development theory.
- Focus on students; their on-going needs over an extended period of time. One advising session builds upon another.
- Challenge students to achieve their learning potential and to take academic risks.
- View students as active partners actively engaged in intellectual and personal growth.
- Help students think about and articulate what is important to them in their academic as well as their personal lives.
- Set short-term as well as long-term goals, discuss ways to achieve those goals, and help the student monitor progress in fulfilling those goals.
King, M. C. (2005). Developmental academic advising. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/dev_adv.htm.
Tip Sheet Number 1:
Tip Sheet Number 2:
Good advising can help to improve retention, an important issue at UDM. Taking the time to find out how your advisees are doing both in and out of the classroom will go a long way to retaining students, especially our freshman and sophomore students.
A. Preparing for the Advising Appointment
Here are a few things to remember to do during fall advising:
- Look up the student’s mid-term grades before the appointment.
Before you mention the grades to the student, ask them how they think they are doing in their courses. This conversation will often be very informative for both of you. Don’t judge the student on how well their grades are reflected in their answer. Some students really won’t know that their grades are as bad as they are. Engage the student in a conversation to make them realize that low grades at mid-term are not going to go away without hard work. Discuss the reasons for poor performance and possible solutions to problem areas.
- Make sure you provide the student with information on services available to them at UDM.
Many students do not realize how much help they can get, for free on campus. If the students are having issues with academics, refer them to the Learning Center (MCN Library, 3rd Floor, 313-993-1143) and/or the Writing Center (Briggs 135, 313-993-1022). If they are having problems at home, let them know they can use the Personal Counseling Center (West Quad Residence Hall, 313-993-1170). If they are looking for part-time or post-graduation employment refer them to the Career Education Center (Reno Hall, 1st Floor, 313-993-1017). If they are experiencing financial problems, refer them to Financial Aid (Fisher, Ground Floor, 313-993-3350).
- Follow up with the student after the appointment.
We all know that suggesting that a student get a tutor or go to the learning center does not always result in the student actually doing so. Follow up with students experiencing difficulties. Let the students know you are there to help them. Have students come back to your office for a follow up appointment in a few weeks to discuss what changes they have made to affect improvement. It shows you care -- and often that will be the difference between retaining and losing the student.
- Advise the student. Do not just sign off on the student’s schedule.
One of the biggest ways advisors can adversely affect retention is to just sign off on a schedule of classes without ever having a meaningful conversation with the students about where they are in terms of their education, how they are doing, and what their plans are post UDM. While it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to select their courses, part of advising is giving good advice and the only way to do that is to get to know your advisees. Make sure the courses fit into the career plans of the students and don’t just fulfill requirements for a major or the core. Make sure that the student has the necessary pre-reqs and co-reqs for courses selected before the student leaves the appointment. The placement of a course within the curriculum can be very important for students considering professional school and taking entrance exams after their sophomore year or during their junior year. Encourage students to challenge themselves and make sure they realize that just completing the “minimum requirements” might not get them very far in real life.
The Advising Appointment
Though the variety of topics covered in an advising appointment depends upon the purpose of the appointment, a certain structure or process is common to all. Following is an overview of some techniques that can be used in an advising session.
- Opening -- Greet the student by name and in a relaxed manner. The student may be nervous so a warm welcome and a low-key question such as "What can I help you with today?" can be reassuring at the same time that it gets the session started.
- Talking with the Student -- The student may find it difficult to express himself. Resist the temptation to "help" by putting words in the student's mouth, finishing the sentence yourself or otherwise taking over the conversation. Careful phrasing of your questions and indicating that you are receptive to the responses should facilitate good communication.
- Silences in the Conversation -- Silences do not necessarily mean a breakdown in communication or a lack of activity. The student (or the advisor) may be searching for words or reflecting upon something that has already been said.
- Admitting your Ignorance -- If the student asks a question regarding factual information to which you do not know the answer, admit it. Get the information immediately, if possible, or call the student back. While one person cannot be expected to know everything, it is reasonable to expect the advisor to get the information in question. Students have greater respect for the advisor who does not hesitate to admit his ignorance.
- Avoiding the Personal Pronoun -- Using the word "I" turns the focus of the advising session away from the advisee, toward the advisor. Expressions like "if I were you, I would" and "I think" express the advisor's opinion or experiences and are inappropriate unless they are explicitly requested. Most of the time, the advisor's role is not to express his point of view, but rather, to help the student to formulate his own opinion.
- Bad News -- When the advisor must give the student bad news, it is not helpful to minimize the gravity of the situation or to be unrealistically optimistic about what the student can do to handle it. However, it is very important that the advisor continue to express an attitude that is receptive and non-judgmental. She can demonstrate her support of the student by helping to put the issue into proper perspective and focusing attention on the positive actions that can be taken to resolve the problem. This may require additional appointments.
- Additional Problems -- Sometimes the student will have unexpressed questions or problems beyond the one that appears to be the reason for the appointment. The advisor can give the student an opening by asking, "Is there something else you would like to ask about?" or "Do you have something else on your mind?"
- The Frequent Visitor -- One of the most difficult advisees to work with will meet frequently with his advisor. This student appears to be receptive to the advisor's suggestions and will often say "I feel so much better after talking to you, " but, in fact, never follows up on the information and strategies discussed during the appointment. This student seems to continue to hope that talking about something will make it happen. Other frequent visitors are sympathy seekers, complainers and the overly dependent. While it is true that their willingness to keep appointments indicates some success on the part of the advisor, they take up time that could be available to other students.
- Setting Limits on the Appointment -- The appointment is normally a fixed length of time. It is better if the advisor and advisee realize this from the beginning. Follow-up appointments can be made, if necessary. However, there are times when an advisor sees a student in crisis and time constraints need to be set aside.
- Ending the Appointment -- When the advising session is finished, it is easy to get overly involved in casual conversation. This can extend the appointment far beyond the allotted time. A phrase such as, "Do you think we have done all we can for today?" or "Let's make another appointment to get into this further" effectively maintains a friendly yet professional tone.
The above article was first published in the Academic Advising News , Vol. 12(3), September 1990. Adapted from Darley's Interview Techniques. Prepared by the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science Advising Center.