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Voices of the Global Community


Kenny Ka‘aiakamanu-Quibilan, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Richard Jay “RJ” Ozoa-Aglugub, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Academic advising is a shared responsibility between the advisor and the advisee. Both members play a vital role in ensuring that the academic advising process goes smoothly. Moreover, research has shown that advising is most effective when the advisee is an active agent in constructing their personalized academic and professional plans (Barkley, 2010; Hirsch & Bobbitt, 2017). Yet, fostering the advisee’s student agency can be a daunting challenge for academic advisors.

What is Student Agency in Academic Advising?

 The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021), defined student agency as, “the capacity to set a goal, reflect and act responsibly to effect change. It is about acting rather than being shaped; and making responsible decisions and choices rather accepting those determined by others” (p. 10). The notion of student agency is grounded in a constructivist understanding of student learning. According to constructivist theorists Dewey (1916) and Piaget (1950), students construct knowledge through social discourse and actively integrate new information with what they already know and understand. In other words, the advisee, being a student, is not passive in the advising process but an active participant that needs to be consulted.

Figure 1

Visual Conceptualization of Bandura’s (2001) Agency Theory

Based on Bandura’s (2001) Agency Theory and research conducted by Code (2020), the advisee is an active agent in academic advising when they display the following characteristics: intentionality, forethought, self-regulation, and self-reflection. Figure 1 displays a visual conceptualization of Bandura’s (2001) Agency Theory.

●       First, intentionality is defined as planning for the consequences of certain outcomes. In academic advising, this can be seen as the advisee planning their course of actions and analyzing the outcomes of their action. For example, the advisee might say, “If I don’t get into X class, then I will have to wait until next school year to take it.”

●       Second, forethought is described as applying thought to action(s) that will lead to a desired outcome. Forethought can be seen as the advisee’s thinking process. Going back to the example, the advisee would then think, “I want to register for X class, this means I should meet with my advisor for early mandatory advising that way I will not get a registration hold on my account.” Here the advisee is putting thought on their planned course of action and planned outcome.

●       Third, self-regulation is defined as regulating our actions and behaviors to achieve a desired outcome. The advisee in the example could then say, “I am going to schedule a mandatory advising appointment.”

●       Last, self-reflection is described as reflecting on the actions and behaviors that produced a desired outcome and can be reproduced. After meeting with an advisor for mandatory advising, the advisee in the example may then think, “I should meet with my advisor early every semester so that I can register for the courses I want and not be placed onto a waitlist.” This is a simple example of an advisee exhibiting their student agency in academic advising.

The Shared Responsibility of the Academic Advisor

As mentioned, academic advising is a shared responsibility between the advisee and the advisor. The advisor must also create a space that welcomes and fosters their advisee’s student agency. Grounded in constructivist understanding of student learning, this can be done by providing opportunities to foster the advisee’s voice, choice, and collaboration in academic advising (Dewey, 1916; Piaget, 1950; Smyth, 2006).

●       Voice is defined as the expression of values, beliefs, and perspectives the advisee has. All advisees have unique lived experiences that shape their voice, and the advisor must be cognizant of that. More importantly, the advisor must make sure that their voice and worldview does not overshadow the advisee’s voice during academic advising. Moreover, choice can be described as the understanding of options available for the advisee.

●       Choice is a decision-making process, and the advisee must understand the choices available to them. Advisees must also take ownership of the choices they make.

●       Finally, collaboration is defined as the active participation and co-partnership between the advisee and advisor. In academic advising, advisors are not sages on the stage but guides on the side helping the advisee navigate their academic and professional journey. All in all, an advisor's ability to promote their advisee’s voice, choice, and collaboration within the advising process is essential to fostering student agency in academic advising.

 Table 1 Shared Responsibilities of the Advisee and Advisor for Fostering Student Agency

Table 1 displays the shared responsibilities of the advisee and advisor in fostering student agency in academic advising. To recap, the advisee must display intentionality, forethought, self-regulation, and self-reflection to be active (student) agents in academic advising. Additionally, the advisor must promote the advisee’s voice, choice, and collaboration in the academic advising process as a means of fostering the advisee’s (student) agency. Combining Bandura’s (2001) Agency Theory and constructivist understanding of student learning, advisors are presented with a theory-based framework to foster student agency in academic advising. Figures 2a and 2b provide a visual representation of said framework. Utilizing the framework provides a tool for advisors to examine and improve their academic advising practice with student agency in mind.

Figure 2a

Framework Based on Bandura’s (2001) Agency Theory and Constructivist Student Learning Theory (Dewey, 1916; Piaget, 1950)

Figure 2b

Framework for Fostering Student Agency in Academic Advising

Strategies for Fostering Student Agency in Academic Advising

There are several strategies and techniques advisors can incorporate into their academic advising to foster student agency. For starters, the advisor should make it clear early on to the advisee that academic advising is a collaborative process which requires input from both the advisor and advisee. Advisors may do this by setting expectations for the advisor and the advisee on an advising syllabus. According to Trabant (2006), “an advising syllabus is a tool which allows individual advisors or offices to outline the advising relationship and experience for their advisees” (p. 1). It is in the advising syllabus that advisors should mention the importance of student agency and provide examples of it. For example, an advising syllabus may list an advisee expectation as, “the ability to set academic and career goals and critically take action to meet those goals.” This expectation encourages the advisee to utilize their intentionality, forethought, and self-regulation. Additionally, an advising syllabus may also list an advisor expectation as, “managing a safe and brave space for the advisee to express themselves.” This expectation encourages the advisor to foster the advisee’s voice during academic advising.

Another strategy advisors may incorporate in their practice to foster student agency is using surveys and assessments. Surveys and assessments are great opportunities for an advisee to provide input and feedback on the academic advising process (Robbins & Zarges, 2011). Advisor evaluations are a great example of an assessment that sheds light on the advisee’s experience at their advising appointment and with the academic advisor. This act also helps to foster the student’s voice in academic advising. In addition, surveys and assessments may be used to get input from the advisee. For example, academic advisors may send a survey to their advisee about appropriate days, times, and appointment formats (i.e., in-person, zoom, by phone) to conduct academic advising for the upcoming semester. In getting the advisee’s input, the academic advisor is fostering the advisee’s choice and collaboration. Moreover, advisors may incorporate pre-appointment and post-appointment surveys consisting of questions that prompt the advisee to use their intentionality, forethought, and self-reflection. For example, a simple pre-appointment survey question may ask the advisee to, “Reflect on your last semester experience.” This survey question prompts the advisee to utilize their self-reflection. On the other hand, a post-appointment survey may ask the advisee, “Now that you have met with an academic advisor, what are your next steps?” This survey question prompts the advisee to use their forethought and plan out actions towards their personal and professional goals.

Furthermore, academic advisors may approach their advising appointments deductively as a means to foster the advisee’s student agency. According to Bhandari (2022), “deductive reasoning is a logical approach where you progress from general ideas to specific conclusions'' (p. 1). Deductive reasoning can be seen as a top-down approach. In academic advising, this would mean that the advisor and advisee would start off with a general idea. Usually these are personal and professional goals the advisee wants to accomplish while navigating higher education. From there, the advisor and advisee work on establishing steps to meet those goals in both the short-term and long-term. In advising appointments moving forward, the advisee may reflect on what steps were successful in producing the desired outcome in the short-term and long-term. All in all, approaching advising appointments deductively allows the advisee to use their intentionality, forethought, self-regulation, and self-reflection.

In conclusion, these are some strategies and techniques that advisors may incorporate within their academic advising practice to foster the advisee’s (student) agency. The theory-based framework provides a model for which advisors can frame their work as well as examine their own academic advising practices with student agency in mind.


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.1

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass.

Bhandari, P. (2022, January 20). What is deductive reasoning? Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/deductive-reasoning/

Code, J. (2020). Agency for learning: Intention, motivation, self-efficacy and self-regulation. Frontiers in Genetics, 5(19). https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2020.00019

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. MacMillan.

Hirsch, B., & Bobbitt, E. (2017, February 22). From hashtags to high-fives: Ways to promote student engagement. Academic Advising Today, 40(1).

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2021). Student agency for 2030. https://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/teaching-and-learning/learning/student-agency/Student_Agency_for_2030_concept_note.pdf

Piaget, J. (1950). The psychology of intelligence. Routledge.

Robbins, R. & Zarges, K. M. (2011). Assessments of academic advising: A summary of the process. NACADA Clearinghouse. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Assessment-of-academic-advising.aspx

Smyth, J. (2006). When students have power. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 9(4), 285–298. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603120600894232

Trabant, T. M. (2006). Creating an advising syllabus. NACADA Clearinghouse. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Creating-an-Advising-Syllabus.aspx


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.