Matthew Markin, California State University, San Bernardino
Hagen (2018) said, “Stories provide structure and coherence to events, processes, and motivations that may lack for viable interpretations unless we impose narrative structure on them” (p. 7).
Narrative structure can be created through shared stories in the academic advising field. Examples of shared stories could include student populations, job responsibilities, positive and negative work experiences, etc. Storytelling is adaptive and facilitates social cohesion as it becomes “an increasingly sophisticated array of cognitive abilities oriented toward sociality” (Bietti et al., 2018, p. 717). The storytelling can even create a shared reality that develops feelings of community (Bietti et al., 2018).
Each narrative involves four master elements: context, plot, style, and theme (Hagen, 2018, p. 25). The context is the background and setting of the narrative. Plot is the foundation of the narrative through a series of events, while style is the way the story is told. The theme is the meaning of the story.
Hagen describes examples of the master elements in various advising settings:
- Context: advisor and student communicating in the advisor’s office
- Plot: student inquires with advisor about adding two more degrees, faces stressful situations, and finally graduates with all three degrees
- Style: student relays their meaning by blaming others for their situation
- Theme: advisor tries to motivate the student, but student misinterprets the theme and changes their major
These narrative elements are also present in podcasts.
A podcast is a series of spoken word, audio episodes, all focused on a particular topic or theme (The Podcast Host, n.d.). These episodes are available through digital audio files that can be downloaded or listened to via the internet (MasterClass, 2021). More specifically, podcasts are published through streaming applications (e.g., Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher). Streaming applications use a Really Simple Syndication, known as an RSS Feed, which allows for listeners to not only stream podcast episodes, but subscribe and be notified when a new episode is published (MasterClass, 2021).
The popularity of podcasts has increased steadily since the early 2000’s (Buzzsprout, 2022). Statistica’s July 2021 study predicts that podcast listeners will reach 504.9 million worldwide by 2024 (Statistica, 2022). Currently, 177 million people in the United States have listened to a podcast and 38% ages 12+ are considered monthly podcast listeners (Edison Research, 2022).
Podcasts range in topics and allow listeners to hear from multiple perspectives. Podcasts are a form of professional development. Professional development is typically conducted via in person workshops or webinar formats. However, podcasts embrace a technological approach with a narrative style to provide similar knowledge to a wider audience through a phone, computer, or tablet.
Examples of podcasts geared toward professional and higher education issues include EdTechPodcast and Teaching in Higher Ed. Colleges. Academic institutions have also developed podcasts to connect with various populations to share ideas. These include Boston University’s The Crux of the Story, which is targeted toward communication students, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Podcast, made for the community college community, and Northwestern University’s Breakthroughs, developed for those interested in the medical field (Dotchel, 2020).
The following sections describe the Adventures in Advising podcast and how it has built community in academic advising.
Adventures in Advising Podcast
The Adventures in Advising podcast was created in January 2019 to give numerous voices to the field of academic advising. These personal voices yield emotional connections to academic advising professionals within a global community. The stories shared a link to the humanities:
We are narratologists every day of our working lives: We're telling stories. We're hearing stories. We're interpreting stories. We engage in rhetoric. We engage in literature insofar as we help to create Bildungsroman, the stories of education and acculturation that come out right. (Hagen et al., 2018, p. 20)
Each podcast episode provides insight integral to professional development and student success. This is provided through the various lenses of the guests interviewed. This directly connects with the premise of the podcast, which is to bring together the global academic advising community to share knowledge, best practices, and their own advising stories. These stories are aimed to supply advising practitioners with real world experiences that can be easily relatable through the personal narratives of the interview guests. Overall, the goals of the podcast are to contribute to the professional development of advising practitioners at all levels and create a community of hope.
The Adventures in Advising podcast has published over 60 episodes with two episodes published each month and two to three guests per episode. The podcast has garnered over 26,000 downloads as of June 7, 2022, from 75 countries/territories and 2,967 cities. Each episode highlights the backgrounds of each guest along with discussing their expertise in academic advising.
Guests are from different areas within higher education (e.g., faculty, deans, assistant deans, directors, study abroad coordinators, undergraduate and graduate students, graduate coordinators, housing and residential life coordinators, and NACADA Executive Office staff). Topics include advising approaches, underrepresented students, student equity, racism, academic probation, retention, first generation college students, mentorship, advisor wellness, advising administration, narrative theory, graduate advising, impacts of COVID, international students, NACADA Advising Communities, scholarly research, technology, social media, creativity, and the professionalization of advising.
Community of Practice
This podcast not only has allowed for professional development and personal growth, but also engages with the concept of communities of practice. Communities of practice are “formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). In essence, these groups have a shared interest or passion for something they do and desire to do better.
“Life storytelling gives us direction, validates our own experience, restores value to living, and strengthens community bonds” (Atkinson, 2022, p. 122). The Adventures in Advising podcast cultivates a virtual community of practice in academic advising within higher education through the characteristics of domain, community, and practice.
The domain is the shared interest within the community and “guides their learning” (Learning for All, 2016). The shared community is distinguished by its members (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). The Adventures in Advising podcast domain is the higher education academic advising community with each topic discussed on the podcast related to academic advising.
Community is created through relationships and connections made, along with the interests, sharing of information (Learning for All, 2016). Community members do not necessarily work together in the same space but are still able to learn from one another (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Community is built through podcast guests represented on each podcast episode and the stories they share with podcast listeners.
The practice characteristic represents the main focus of the community (Learning for All, 2016). The community members are the practitioners who develop a shared practice. The shared practice generates shared resources (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). The published episodes of the Adventures in Advising podcast are a repository of shared practices.
Adventures in Advising Podcast
Podcast guests and listeners
Repository of shared practices: stories, experiences, lessons learned, and networking
Over 140 unique guests have been interviewed for the Adventures in Advising podcast, which have included all ten regions within NACADA and 14% international guest perspectives.
The podcast is made available through various technological devices. The most used app to access the podcast is Apple Podcasts. 72% of episodes are listened to using a mobile device followed by 22% using a desktop computer. Tablets, smart tvs, and Apple watches have also been used to listen to podcast episodes.
Listeners have praised the podcast for its community building and academic advising content:
- “Today I want to express my appreciation for the @advisingpodcast! A ‘next level’ idea that has been tremendous in building community for advising professionals across the globe. This @NACADA resource has been instrumental in the growth & development of so many advisors!” - Michael Geroux, University at Albany
- “I am so glad I found this podcast. I’m currently in a master’s program for academic advising and just love listening. So much valuable content on both the advising practice and the world of higher education.” - @mcG206 Apple Podcast review
- “Adventures in Advising is truly a must listen to regardless of your role in advising and student success. Tips for growth, power of connection, and a familiarity of colleagues that you would like to see more often!” - @RacerFanForever Apple Podcast review
- “This podcast is giving some much needed perspective on advising! Thanks so much for taking the time to make this! So good to hear other advisor voices in this unique time.” - Rachel Mars, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Through the guests interviewed and stories shared on the Adventures in Advising podcast, listeners are given context, plots, styles, and themes to interpret and draw meaning from. The various podcast topics related to academic advising and higher education give timely and relevant knowledge and direction. Whether a new or seasoned academic advising professional, each episode and interview produce several jumping-on points to continue their journey in the advising field.
Advising and Academic Services
California State University, San Bernardino
Acknowledgements: The author thanks Craig McGill (Kansas State University) for providing the suggestion and support for this topic and Ryan Scheckel (Texas Tech University) for assisting with the podcast data collection.
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Learning for All. (2016). What is a community of practice? Creating Communities of Practice. https://www.communityofpractice.ca/background/what-is-a-community-of-practice/
MasterClass. (2021, November 5). How do podcasts work? How to create a podcast in 13 steps. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-do-podcasts-work
The Podcast Host. (n.d.). What is a podcast? An explanation in plain English. https://www.thepodcasthost.com/listening/what-is-a-podcast/
Statistica. (2022, February 18). Number of podcast listeners worldwide from 2019-2024. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1291360/podcast-listeners-worldwide/#:~:text=In%202020%2C%20the%20number%20of,grown%20to%20383.7%20in%202021
Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015, April 15). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. Wenger-Trayner. https://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/
Cite this article using APA style as: Markin, M. (2022, December). Creating a community of practice through adventures in podcasting. Academic Advising Today, 45(4). [insert url here]