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Travis Nakayama, University of Hawaii at Hilo

Previous articles in NACADA’s Academic Advising Today have focused on academic advising and using dispositions as part of the evaluation process in determining whether or not certain students have the aptitudes to be successful in particular professional programs.  Lee Kem’sAvoiding Teacher ‘Dropouts’“ and “Academic Advising and the Dispositions Assessment Process” highlight the dilemma advisors face when using dispositions as assessments.  In instances where student dispositions do not coincide with the disposition required for a specific profession, advisors have little input in the admissions process, albeit advisors do have a more comprehensive vantage point than instructors.

Even though advisors do have a small role in the selection process of students within their professional program, advisors can have a profound impact in the development of their students.  By being transparent at all advising sessions and by using intrusive advising strategies, advisors can assist their students in developing the dispositions required to be successful in their professional program.

What Are Dispositions?

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) (n.d.) defines professional dispositions as “Professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through verbal and non-verbal behaviors as educators interact with students, families, colleagues, and communities.  These positive behaviors support student learning and development.”  NCATE further mentions that “institutions are expected to assess professional dispositions based on students’ behavior in educational settings.”  The basic part of this definition can be related to other professional programs, as all programs and professions have a set of professional attitudes, values, and beliefs to which each student must adhere.

Why Are Dispositions Overlooked?

According to Diez (2007), the 1970s competency based movement placed a strong emphasis on content knowledge.  As such, to measure content knowledge, the use of standardized tests were implemented as part of the admissions criteria.  Diez also implies that dispositions tend to be overlooked because standardized tests are easily measured.  By having this strong reliance on content knowledge, the tendency is to overlook dispositions.  This trend can be seen where admissions criteria of professional programs solely focus on strong academic backgrounds and standardized test scores, which normally relate to strong content knowledge.

Why is There Such a Strong Need to Assess and Emphasize Dispositions?

Rike and Sharp (2009) suggest that assessing and emphasizing dispositions are mutually beneficial to programs and their students;  by having disposition systems in place  programs set expectations upfront and allow for reflective growth.  These systems allow faculty members to screen and eliminate those who do not meet the dispositional standards required of the profession.  At first, while many will not meet proficiency for some of the dispositions, successful students will improve and act on the feedback given to them.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo School of Education Professional Disposition System

Effective spring 2013, the faculty of the UH Hilo School of Education voted unanimously to assess every student in their undergraduate prerequisite and preparation classes on various professional attributes essential to the teaching profession.  These professional dispositions are:

  • attendance
  • punctuality
  • oral expression
  • written expression
  • tact/judgment
  • reliability/dependability
  • self-initiative/independence
  • collegiality
  • response to feedback
  • professional ethics
  • professional demeanor

Each faculty member rates each student on a 3-2-1-0 scale, with 3 being “consistently,” 2 being “generally,” 1 being “sometimes,” and 0 being “rarely.”  Any student earning a rating of a 1 or 0 on any of the professional attributes are automatically “red-flagged” for admissions into the Master of Arts in Teaching Program.  While these professional attributes are intended to evaluate teachers, these dispositions are very general and may be appropriate to other programs and professions. 

What Role do Advisors Play in Helping Students Improve Their Dispositions?

As students frequently meet with their advisors for a variety of reasons, advisors play a crucial role in helping students develop and improve their dispositions.  Often, dispositions are tendencies students develop over a long period of time, and advisors should identify which tendencies are consistent with their program and profession at the initial advising session.  Based on the aforementioned professional attributes, below are several ways in which advisors can identify if students meet the professional dispositions.

  • Attendance:  Does the student attend advising sessions when appointments are set?
  • Punctuality:  Does the student show up on-time to advising appointments?
  • Oral expression:  Is the student expressive? Or quiet and reserved?
  • Written expression:  Does the student use proper and formal English when conversing through e-mail? Or are e-mails written in a casual tone?
  • Tact/Judgment:  Does the student have a solid academic background?  Are there notes in his/her advising file that raise any concern?
  • Reliability/Dependability:  When you advise a student to do a certain task, does s/he follow through immediately?  Does the student need several reminders?
  • Self-initiative/Independence:  Has the student prepared for the advising session beforehand? Has the student met some or all of the admission requirements prior to the initial advising session?
  • Collegiality:  Is the student personable during the advising session?  Or is the student confrontational?
  • Response to feedback:  When a concern is raised about a student, does the student improve or regress?
  • Professional ethics:  Does the student behave in a manner that is consistent with being a professional?

At the end of each advising session, advisors should note down whether or not their advisees met the dispositions.  If advisors notice an alarming trend that certain dispositions are never met, advisors should communicate their concerns to the student.  In this dialogue, advisors should specify what happened, their concerns, and why establishing these dispositions are critical for success in the program and profession.  With having this system in place, advisors will consistently reinforce to the student that their dispositions are constantly being evaluated, and that developing these dispositions are crucial for their own success.


Although there are many admission criteria advisors need to be aware of, advisors should not overlook the dispositions students need to possess to be successful in their program and the professions they represent.  As advisors are frequently visited for advice on the application process, advisors need to be extremely proactive and assist with the development of professional dispositions.  By being transparent throughout all advising sessions and utilizing intrusive advising strategies, advisors can build a community of trust and engage in dialogues to foster the development of the dispositions required of their professional programs.

Travis Nakayama
Jr. Specialist/Advisor
School of Education
University of Hawaii at Hilo
[email protected]


Diez, M.E. (2007). Assessing dispositions: Context and questions.  In M.E. Diez and J. Raths (Eds.), Dispositions in Teacher Education (pp. 183-201). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Kem, L. (2006, February). Academic advising and the dispositions assessment process. Academic Advising Today, 29(1). Retrieved from: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Academic-Advising-and-the-Dispositions-Assessment-Process.aspx

Kem, L. (2008, March). Avoiding teacher 'dropouts'. Academic Advising Today, 31(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Avoiding-Teacher-Dropouts.aspx

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (n.d.). NCATE Glossary of Terms. Retrieved from http://ncate.org/glossary

Rike, C.J., & Sharp, L.K. (2009). Developing and assessing teacher candidates’ dispositions: A beneficial process for all.  In P.R. LeBlanc and N.P. Gallavan (Eds.), Affective teacher education:  exploring connections among knowledge, skills, and dispositions (pp. 61-78). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education.

Cite this article using APA style as: Nakayama, T. (2015, September). Dialogues for dispositions: Promoting professionalism through advising. Academic Advising Today, 38(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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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.