Colleen Rose, Indiana University Bloomington
As the profession of academic advising makes its rightful case for stronger integration and recognition from the academy, advisors must consider how their practice not merely compliments but aligns with the already revered role of teaching faculty. While a stereotype persists that academic advising is simply assisting students in class scheduling, those well-versed in the profession understand that a myriad of perspectives, theories, and evidence-based approaches inform what is effective, and oftentimes transformational, advising practice.
One of the more recent perspectives to inform (and transform) academic advising is the concept of advising as a form of teaching (Hemwall & Trachte, 1999; Lowenstein, 2005). Advising as teaching places the advisor in a role that facilitates students’ relationship to and understanding of the entire curriculum, not just its seemingly disparate parts. Advising that only goes as far as choosing classes misses a critical opportunity to connect students to a broad and deep understanding of their chosen discipline—including all the knowledge necessary to do it well—and the purpose of earning a higher degree.
If advising is a form of teaching, then how does an advisor teach effectively? Academic advising can glean much from learning theory and the scholarship of teaching and learning to inform effective advising-as-teaching practice with students. The following four teaching approaches can be easily adapted to advising in a variety of settings with most student populations.
The Flipped Classroom
In teaching, the idea behind the flipped classroom is that instructors deliver some content prior to class, such as through pre-readings, videos, or online lectures. In-class time can then be used to apply new material together with direct feedback and engagement from the instructor. A flipped approach is particularly helpful when students struggle to apply a certain concept on their own. In a flipped classroom, the instructor and student have the opportunity to work on application together (King, 1993; Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000; Mazur, 1997).
There are many ways an advisor could take a flipped classroom approach to advising students. Prior to advising sessions, an advisor might ask students to review online instructions about how to read and understand their institution’s academic advising report and to come prepared to their advising sessions with questions. This not only empowers the student to take ownership of their own academic advising, but it frees up time in the advising appointment for the advisor and student to work together on problem-solving rather than learning the platform.
Backward design is an approach that begins at the end: what should students ultimately be able to do by the end of a course? Rather than create tests and assignments as the first step in course design, in backward design the instructor starts first with articulating final learning outcomes and then works backwards to design assignments and activities that contribute to those outcomes (Fink, 2013; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).
Backward design can be applied to almost all aspects of academic advising. For example, an advisor may want to use backward design to evaluate how they work with students on academic probation. In this case, the advisor would start by answering these questions: what should students be able to think and do by the end of the advising relationship? How will students be different once they have successfully completed the probation process? From there, the advisor can then work backwards to design program elements and expectations that contribute to those outcomes and hopefully set aside practices that do not.
Scaffolding is a teaching practice in which an instructor creates developmentally appropriate tasks that build upon one another (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman, 2010; Vygotsky, 1978). Scaffolding is inherent in most teaching; in almost every discipline students learn the fundamentals before they move on to more nuanced knowledge. A truly scaffolded approach to learning is the difference between asking students to submit a final paper that has no other associated assignments, versus breaking that final paper down into several assignments that build towards the final paper. Scaffolding is an effective way to ensure that students understand what is expected of them and reduces the stakes of one-and-done assignments that carry a lot of scoring weight.
How can an advisor use scaffolding in their academic practice? Consider advising students about graduate school. A well-intentioned advisor might share with freshmen information about graduate education in their field, directories of programs, and strategies for shopping and applying for programs. While this is all great information, it may be more detail than a student new to college really wants to take in. A scaffolded approach might establish the goal of simply introducing the idea of graduate school to freshmen and sophomores as part of advising. The advisor can then cover strategies for shopping for programs during the junior year and the application process during the senior year.
Transparent assignments may be one of the most powerful tools in teaching. Winkelmes et al. (2016) found that the greatest learning gains from this approach are among underrepresented student populations. For many students, it is not evident why a particular test, essay, or activity is relevant to what they are supposed to learn. Transparent assignments include an explanation about why one is being asked to complete an assignment. This explanation includes not only the purpose of the assignment, but also how engaging in it will benefit the student both now and beyond college (Winkelmes, 2013). Articulating the purpose of an assignment also gives the instructor an opportunity to assess whether or not the learning activity itself is actually purposeful.
Advisors can apply transparent assignment design to almost every aspect of advising. For example, before starting an individual or group advising session, the advisor can explain the purpose of the session. Better yet, the advisor can ask the students what they think the purpose of the session is or should be! When students understand why they are being asked or required to participate in something, the likelihood they are invested in (and maybe even excited about) the process increases.
Should advisors see themselves as teachers, they should also evaluate how learning theory and the scholarship of teaching and learning might provide the foundation to their practice in the same ways it informs teaching faculty. The four approaches discussed in this article are an excellent start to building an advising practice that reflects the core teaching and learning mission of higher education.
Colleen Rose, MSW, LSW
Student Services Coordinator and Recruitment Specialist
Indiana University School of Social Work
Indiana University Bloomington
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Cite this article using APA style as: Rose, C. (2020, March). Advising as teaching: The power of evidence-based teaching practices in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(1). [insert url here]