NACADA’s strategic goals (4 of 8)

In this month’s post, we consider the next goal from NACADA’s strategic plan: “Promote the role of effective academic advising in student success to college and university decision maker.” From my perspective, that goal has two essential elements: (a) establishing the assertion that effective academic advising contributes to student success and (b) communicating that information to decision makers.

Finding information to support the assertion that effective academic advising contributes to student success is fairly straightforward. Whether that advising focuses on major selection, course scheduling, navigating the complex maze of institutional rules, helping students deal with financial / psychological / emotional issues or balancing the demands of school / work / family, students benefit from interacting with a knowledgeable, objective third party like an advisor.

A graduate student recently came into my office for some advice. She is presently enrolled in our MBA program at Cal Poly Pomona, but is considering switching to our MS in Engineering Management. We spent some time discussing the costs and benefits of making the switch; in the end, we collaboratively arrived at an alternative that would help her achieve her goals. I’m sure you have some similar anecdotes to share; don’t hesitate to add them in the comments to this post.

Armed with the knowledge that effective academic advising contributes to student success, we must communicate that information to decision makers. Here are a few suggestions for that:

  • Ask your campus academic / faculty senate (or its equivalent) to adopt a resolution acknowledging the important role of advising in student success.
  • Create an ‘advising task force’ that can identify needs, establish priorities and suggest policy to decision makers.
  • Encourage your campus newspaper to interview advisors and students, then publish an article summarizing those interviews.

If you have additional suggestions / best practices for communicating the importance of advising to campus decision makers, I invite you to share them in the comments.

Until next month, colleagues, I wish you joy and success in the important work you do.

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Videoconference slides & recording

On Friday, 31 January 2014 at 10 a.m. PST, I hosted a free one-hour webinar on academic advising.  The session addressed three main topics:  fundamental advising concepts, academic advising research and resources from NACADA.  The slides are available via Google Drive here; you do not need a Google log-in to access the slides.  Additionally, I recorded the session through Big Marker; the video is available here.

NACADA’s strategic goals (3 of 8)

Happy 2014 everyone!  I hope your holiday season was restful and enjoyable, and that your new term is (or soon will be) off to a great start.  In this month’s post, we look at NACADA’s strategic goal to “provide professional development opportunities that are responsive to the needs of advisors and advising administrators.”  One of the things I love about NACADA is the plethora of conferences, workshops, webinars and written materials it provides to help all advisors develop professionally.  According to Dr. Nancy Bell, one of the hallmarks of a professional is actively seeking additional knowledge, and NACADA supplies plenty of opportunities for us to do just that–check out the “events” page on the NACADA web site for a listing.

Everyone wishes for sufficient money in the budget to attend lots of NACADA events through the year, but very few folks have such resources.  One great, low cost way to participate in professional development with NACADA is its ongoing series of webinars.  Check out these titles of recent and upcoming webinars:

  • Emerging Issues in Academic Advising Theory
  • The Peer Advising Challenge:  Creating Meaningful Connections
  • Developing Intercultural Communication Skills for Academic Advisors
  • LGBTQA Ally Development and Advocacy Empowerment for Academic Advisors
  • Soldiers to Students: Academic Advising for Returning Veterans
  • Balancing Academic Advising with other Faculty Responsibilities

Apart from webinars, campus-based discussion groups of academic advising publications can also be a great way to engage folks in professional development around academic advising.  Whether a one-time brown bag lunch focusing on an article from the NACADA Journal, or an ongoing discussion group of a NACADA book or monograph, getting folks together on your campus to talk about academic advising is an outstanding way to fulfill your professional development needs.

If you have questions about any of NACADA’s professional development opportunities, please contact me privately via email; I’ll be happy to share what I know and help you get connected with Executive Office staff for more information.

In next month’s blog post, we’ll consider the Association’s goal to “promote the role of effective academic advising in student success to college and university decision makers.”

NACADA’s strategic goals (2 of 8)

In our ongoing discussion of NACADA’s recently approved strategic plan, this month’s blog entry looks at  the Association’s goal to “expand and communicate the scholarship of academic advising.”  To achieve that goal, we first need to understand the nature of “scholarship in academic advising.”  In his landmark and seminal book, Scholarship Reconsidered:  Priorities of the Professoriate, Ernest Boyer laid out a very useful taxonomy for understanding scholarship.  He explained that scholarship can be divided into four broad types:

  • Scholarship of discovery.  When most folks think of research, they immediately think about this type of scholarship; in discovery scholarship, we create brand new knowledge about a topic.  Although very important in the grander scheme of things, relatively few researchers create such new knowledge.  The scholarship of discovery requires extensive training in research methods and (often) in statistics.  And, it rarely produces results of “life changing” significance.  An emphasis on the scholarship of discovery ignores other “ways of knowing” and deters many folks from engaging in research at all.
  • Scholarship of integration.  Academic advising research is very amenable to the scholarship of integration.  In this form of scholarship, we often integrate knowledge from various disciplines.  Since academic advising is an interdisciplinary field by nature, the scholarship of integration is a good model for academic advising research and scholarship.
  • Scholarship of application.  In this form of scholarship, researchers take previously discovered information and apply it in new contexts.  Consider, for example, the current emphasis many campuses place on educating veterans.  A scholarship of application project might examine how various forms of advising (prescriptive, developmental, intrusive) “work” with that important population.
  • Scholarship of teaching and learning.  Since advising is a form of teaching, the scholarship of teaching & learning also provides fertile ground for academic advising researchers.  You may hear the phrase “teacher / scholar” on your campus in connection with this form of scholarship.

The category a specific research endeavor fits into isn’t really the most important thing; the Boyer taxonomy is useful because it expands our view of scholarship in general.  NACADA’s Research Committee has developed a research agenda that provides a good starting place for thinking about academic advising research.  Through its various publication venues, such as the NACADA Journal and Academic Advising Today, the Association also provides lots of opportunity to communicate the scholarship of academic advising.  Discipline-based journals are increasingly open to sound academic advising research, too.

If you have an interest in exploring the scholarship of academic advising, please consider one or more of the following resources:

Don’t hesitate to contact me via email if you’d like to dialogue more specifically about the scholarship of academic advising.  Next month’s entry will look at NACADA’s strategic goal to “provide professional development opportunities that are responsive to the needs of advisors and advising administrators.”  Meanwhile, happy holidays to everyone!

NACADA’s strategic goals (1 of 8)

For the next few months, our commission blog posts will focus on NACADA’s newly adopted strategic goals.  Like strategic plans in many other organizations, NACADA’s plan is designed to guide the Association in the coming years; in other words, it provides direction for critically important decisions like resource allocation, evaluation & assessment and programs & activities.

I’ve worked with and for NACADA for many years, in many different capacities and roles. Like you, I believe in the importance of academic advising in higher education–the difference we, as advisors, can make in the lives of students.   I’m therefore very optimistic that NACADA’s leadership will indeed use the strategic plan for its intended purpose–not merely as an ‘exercise to complete’ every five years.

Michael Porter, of the Harvard Business School, wrote that businesses compete in two fundamental ways:  cost / price leadership and product differentiation. Although not a business, NACADA follows the latter approach; folks with a passion for academic advising, who seek to learn more about the field from both conceptual and applied perspectives and who want to advance knowledge that will inform practice for years to come would be hard pressed to find a better source than NACADA.

If you have comments or perspectives to share on the NACADA strategic plan as a whole, I hope you’ll take a few moments to share them in the comments to this post. And, I hope you’ll return to this blog next month, when we’ll take a look at expanding and communicating the scholarship of academic advising.

Disability 101: A Guide for Faculty Advisors

Colleagues, please check out the attached document from the Advising Students with Disabilities commission; it offers a lot of good information about working with students with various kinds of disabilities.  My thanks to Rebecca Cofer, chair of the ASD commission, for putting it together.

Disability 101 commissionfinal

College rating system

A recent article by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed laid out President Obama’s proposed plan for (among other things) tying various rewards to specific performance metrics.  The article, titled Obama’s Ratings for Higher Ed appeared in the 22 August 2013 edition, and can be accessed via this link.

In business, we say that ‘what gets measured gets managed.’  From an organizational culture perspective, the president’s proposal is attempting to change behavior, presumably hoping that values and assumptions will change as a result. Although the proposal has some good ideas, some of which have been around in higher ed for decades, it doesn’t address the organizational forces that have led to our current situation. Some of those forces include faculty unions determined to maintain the status quo, system and campus administrators seeking a ‘magic bullet,’ and some (not all) poorly prepared students with weak fundamental skills and attitudes of entitlement springing from the erroneous belief that they are customers.

How does advising fit into the accountability picture painted by the president’s proposal?  What comments do you have on the pros and cons of what he’s suggesting?  Please share your thoughts in the comments to this post and / or on the Commission listserv.  If you’re not already a subscriber to the list, you’ll find directions for doing so here; you can expect about one post a month from me on the list updating you on Commission and NACADA matters.

You’re also most welcome to register your opinion on the viability of the president’s proposal here; your responses will be completely anonymous.

Competency-based transcripts

Greetings, colleagues. . .

Competency-based education has been around for decades; the idea that we should specify learning outcomes for class meetings, courses and programs has become part of our mental model in higher education, particularly when it comes to assessment.  But, Northern Arizona University has taken the idea one step further in the development of competency-based transcripts.  Please check out this Inside Higher Ed article by Paul Fain, which appeared on 9 August 2013 (the article is simply titled “Competency-Based Transcripts.”)  NAU’s idea is intriguing, and has some merits; but, like most educational innovations, it will likely be discussed and adopted slowly over time.

What do you see as the pros and cons of a competency-based transcript?  How could a similar tool be developed and used in academic advising?  Please share your thoughts in the comments here on the blog and / or on the Commission listserv.  If you’re not a subscriber to the list, you’ll find directions for doing so here.

 

Teaching and students: with them or for them?

Commission member Kristan Venegas of the University of Southern California sent me a link to an interesting article from the Teaching Professor blog.  Authored by Maryellen Weimer, the article is titled “Learning with Students vs. Doing for Students.”  In it, Professor Weimer is commenting on a quote she heard from a colleague:  ““I see myself as a learner first, thus I create my classes with learners, not for them.”  Interesting idea, right?  We hear a lot in higher education about focusing our classes on “learning,” rather than “teaching.”  Of course, it’s not a dichotomy, but a continuum.

Professor Weimer’s exploration of the idea is realistic and balanced.  She recognizes that, while some courses may allow us to determine content, assessment tools and classroom activities, we’re often constrained as educators with respect to all three.  Thinking about my own discipline (accounting), there are just some things that must be included in courses, whether I / my students find them interesting & compelling or not.  And, the same is true in other fields.  Nevertheless, designing courses with students in mind is a sound and common practice; each time I deliver a course, I make changes to it based on “what worked” and “what didn’t work” with students.

Since advising is a form of teaching, the same ideas hold true in our interactions with the students we advise.  In those cases, however, it’s a bit simpler to co-create based on an individual student’s concerns.  I invite you, either in the comments below or on the Faculty Advising commission listserv, to comment on the ideas in the article.  For example, what steps do you take, either in your classes and / or in your advising interactions, to co-create with students?  For students?  If you’re not already subscribed to the listserv, you’ll find directions for doing so here.

The role of incentives in motivation

Greetings, colleagues. . .

As advisors, we’re frequently called upon to motivate people, whether those people are students, colleagues, administrators or others.  And, for as long as organizations have existed, scholars have been advancing theories about what motivates people.  Since motivation is part and parcel of the work we do, I thought you might be interested in this article on the subject:  How Incentives Demoralize Us by Barry Schwartz, Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College.  Although Prof. Schwartz is examining the role of monetary incentives in motivation, I think it raises some interesting questions in advising contexts.

We’d all be happier if our students would take our advice simply because it’s the “right thing to do” with respect to matters like major and course selection, study habits, co-curricular activities, relationships and the like.  Sadly, students sometimes have to be externally motivated to act in their own best interest.  On my campus, for example, we’ve begun charging students extra fees when they accumulate too many units.  If Prof. Schwartz is correct, that practice may be counterproductive vis-a-vis its intended purpose (getting students to graduate more quickly).

I invite you to consider the following questions, and to share your thoughts in the comments to this post and / or on our Faculty Advising commission listserv:

  1. What external incentives does your campus employ to motivate students?  How are those incentives working?
  2. If you could design a system to motivate students to take your advice, what would it look like?

Directions for subscribing to the listserv can be found here.