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Voices of the Global Community


Kalani Palmer, Indiana University of Pennsylvania 
Paul Higgerson, University of Florida

Faculty have a long tradition of advising students in higher education. They were the first academic advisors and continued to be the principal source of academic advice at most institutions through the 1940s (Cook, 2009). To this day, faculty continue to play an influential role in advising. According to NACADA’s 2011 National Survey, 17% of the participants surveyed utilized faculty-only advising and upwards of 90% of participants had faculty advising in some form (Carlstrom & Miller, 2013). The percentage of faculty-only advisors is even higher (28.2%) for schools with enrollment below 6,000 students (Self, 2013). It is important that all advisors, including faculty, understand the expectations of them. The absence of this understanding can lead to advisors feeling like their work is not valued and might lower student satisfaction (Allen & Smith, 2008; Hart-Baldridge, 2020). Understanding and assessing these expectations is vital to ensuring students are taught what they need to know and ensuring that faculty know what they need to do. Although assessment of faculty advising is vital, it is unclear exactly how, and if, it is done.

Expectations of Faculty Advisors

Assessment of faculty advising should focus on the expected duties and outcomes. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2023), the accrediting agency for over 500 institutions, does not outline expectations for advisors but does state that the goal of advising is to “enhance retention and guide students throughout their educational experience” (Standard IV Criteria 1c). Expectations of faculty advisors can vary; however, there are some consistent expectations for the role. Guidance and support in course enrollment as well as an understanding of program requirements are primary duties of all advisors, including faculty (Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Hart-Baldridge, 2020; He & Hutson, 2017). Other functions faculty are expected to undertake include career and post-graduation advising support (Frost & Brown-Wheler, 2003; Senior et al., 2017). To be successful, faculty advisors need a strong knowledge base in these and other areas (Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Smith & Allen, 2006). Dillon and Fisher (2000) found that faculty also viewed knowledge as a top responsibility when advising students.

As students make their way through higher education, knowing where to go for assistance and who to see can present challenges. Advisors armed with the necessary institutional knowledge are in an excellent position to assist students on their journey. Assisting students in navigating this journey is a primary responsibility of academic advising (Drake, 2013; Hart-Baldridge, 2020; Smith & Allen, 2006). Faculty are in a unique position to assist students with this as many have spent their careers navigating academic institutions (Hart-Baldridge, 2020). Allen and Smith (2008) identify referrals as a primary domain of faculty advising, which can include academic and nonacademic referrals. Navigating the institution and providing referrals go hand in hand. Faculty advisors themselves see these as important aspects of their role (Allen & Smith, 2008; Dillon & Fisher, 2000). Students and faculty advisors alike stand to gain when they know where to go and who to see for support or to address questions and challenges.

Concerns in Faculty Advising

While several themes are clear regarding faculty advising expectations, there are many areas of concern. Inadequate or infrequent training is cited as a challenge, as well as the fact that being good at the role can often lead to students not in one’s caseload seeking advising (Allen & Smith, 2008; Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Hart-Baldridge, 2020; He & Hutson, 2017). Faculty often feel that their advising responsibilities are undervalued by administration (Allen & Smith, 2008; Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Hart-Baldridge, 2020). Other concerns involve the advising function in tenure and promotion (T&P) policies. Often, advising duties are classified as service; in some instances, they are barely mentioned (Allen & Smith, 2008; Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Hart-Baldridge, 2020; He & Hutson, 2017). He and Hutson (2017) note that assessment of faculty advising often looks only at advisor caseload, time spent advising, and student satisfaction. At many institutions, faculty are governed by contracts which may or may not define the advising role. Teague and Grites (1980) conducted a comprehensive review of advising expectations outlined for faculty in collective bargaining agreements, but a current review is needed. It is important to note that anything not identified in the contract could be met with resistance by the faculty. Involving faculty might help facilitate the process of defining, advising, and spelling out expectations. To alleviate faculty concerns, it is necessary to have clear expectations for faculty, ensure those expectations are assessed in a manner that fairly evaluates advising performance, and clearly identify the value of duties.

Assessment Methods

Existing research on faculty advising identified multiple methods available for assessment. Quantitative assessments (e.g., surveys with close-ended questions) of student satisfaction frequently appeared (Eduljee & Michaud, 2014; Hurt, 2004; Johnson & Morgan, 2005; Sheldon et al., 2015; Springer & Tyran, 2022; Teasley & Buchanan, 2013; Yonker et al., 2019). Powers et al. (2013) also described a quantitative measure that examined student learning outcomes such as awareness of department policies or use of the online registration system. In addition to the quantitative measures, some offered suggestions for qualitative assessments (e.g., focus groups, artifact review) of faculty advising, but these were rare (Cuseo, 2008; Hurt, 2004). A mixed method assessment approach is comprehensive and would produce the most useful findings (Cuseo, 2008), but qualitative data collection or analysis is often labor intensive and more challenging to analyze (Rahman, 2017).

Additionally, incorporating the view of multiple stakeholders seemed key (Cuseo, 2008; Hurt, 2004). Most importantly, the successful implementation of faculty advising assessment requires buy-in from faculty. To address this, some have recommended including faculty in the design and implementation of assessments (Cuseo, 2008; Hurt, 2004; He & Hutson, 2017). Unfortunately, most assessments of faculty advising relied heavily on the student perspective alone (mostly on their satisfaction with advising). The perspective of peers, staff, and administrators are noted as important, but empirical data on the inclusion of them in advising assessment did not appear in the literature. Research on peer assessment of faculty teaching provides some transferable insights to advising. Cox et al. (2013) argued that peer assessment is useful, but more so when it examined areas that student evaluations did not capture. Servillo et al. (2017) found that low-stakes peer assessment with early career faculty aided in self-reflection, resource sharing, and collaboration, which suggests it may prompt activities that support faculty learning and growth. Like the findings on peer assessment, administrators participate in faculty evaluations but not necessarily for advising. Administrators (e.g., dean) have an opportunity to provide performance feedback to faculty, but advising is often not included.

Concerns with Assessment

While assessment is needed, each institution, department, and program need to be ready for assessment. In general, the current expectations in contracts or collective bargaining agreements across the country have not been comprehensively examined in over forty years (Teague & Grites, 1980) and thus is also unknown. It is not appropriate to assess faculty advising without first establishing clear expectations. Ideally, the process for conducting faculty advising (i.e., how it is done) should also be understood before assessing the quality of advising or the achievement of student outcomes (Epstein & Klerman, 2013). The lack of clear expectations, formal training, and comprehensive formative assessment suggests that institutions of higher education (IHEs) are not prepared to assess the quality of faculty advising. Faculty may have been the first advisors, but most institutions do not appear ready for a summative assessment, which could help identify what works and for whom.

Recommendations for Policy and Practice

Overall, it is recommended that IHEs begin to implement policies, procedures, and practices that demonstrate a firm commitment to implementing and assessing quality faculty advising. It is also recommended that professional associations offer guidelines, tools, and training that support a multi-stakeholder (e.g., peers, students) assessment of faculty advising.

Clear Expectations and Management

IHEs need clear expectations for faculty advising and guidelines for caseload assignments. Faculty must be included in the establishment of expectations, especially when an institution has a collective bargaining agreement or when a program holds accreditation. It is essential that administrators set reasonable guidelines, monitor faculty caseloads, and protect faculty time. Faculty who are considered good at advising (Allen & Smith, 2008; Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Vowell, 1995) and those that identify as a member of an underrepresented group (Canton, 2013; Social Sciences Feminist Network Research Interest Group, 2017) often advise students not in their assigned caseload. Administrators play a key role in providing oversight and ensuring equity amongst faculty.

Student Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes for faculty advising must be created. Ensuring students are learning what we want them to know can only be evaluated through assessment of advising. When satisfaction is the focus, learning outcomes for academic advising can be overlooked (White, 2015). All stakeholders (faculty, administration, staff, and students) should be included in the creation of learning outcomes for academic advising.

Evidence-Based Formal Training

IHE’s and professional associations should offer formal training to support faculty advising practices that are evidence-based and aligned with the student learning outcomes. Ideally, professional associations affiliated with advising will offer training; however, IHEs must consider developing training programs that encompass the advising cycle. Faculty need basic knowledge and skill that is potentially university, department, or major specific (e.g., degree requirements) to support their advising work (Crocker et al., 2014). Only the IHE can provide that specific training and support to faculty.

Comprehensive Formative Evaluation

IHE’s should offer low-stakes comprehensive formative evaluations and provide evaluation results to faculty. Prior to making judgments about the impact or assessing the quality of faculty advising, ongoing assessment with continuous feedback for the purpose of improvement is needed but often missing (Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Robbins & Zarges, 2011; Springer & Tyran, 2022).

Tenure and Promotion

Last, IHE’s should include advising in the tenure and promotion process (Palmer, 2022). Institutions and professional associations can offer training and guidance on how assessment of faculty advising might be incorporated into the tenure and promotions process.


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Posted in: 2024 March 47:1


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