Victoria McGillin, Faculty Advising Commission Chair
Tamra Susan Ortgies-Young and Lee Kem, Faculty Advising Commission Members
Assessment and reward of faculty advisors is a hot topic at institutions with faculty advising systems. Because advising has so rarely been fully integrated into the faculty assessment and reward system, i.e., the teacher/scholar/service tenure process, the dilemma of either no assessment/reward system or parallel advising systems of assessment and recognition is often discussed. Three members of the NACADA Faculty Advising Commission brought this topic to the NACADA Annual Conference in October 2009 and solicited feedback and best practices in a survey of session attendees. Representatives from two-year and four-year, public and private institutions weighed in on this discussion.
To establish context, we first must consider why assessment and reward or recognition are important for any professionals. The faculty and professional development literature has, for many years (Diamond, 1999), emphasized that professional development must include three legs:
- First, professionals need opportunities to learn how to develop their skills (workshops, manuals, webinars, or classes). Institutions should offer faculty who advise the opportunity to learn needed information and skills.
- Second, to develop those skills formatively, professionals need consistent performance feedback ('How am I doing?') whether advisors are measured against a standard or in comparison to their own earlier skills. When professionals see how far they have come and how far they can still go, they can judge what additional learning opportunities will enable them to achieve their goals.
- Third, we all need to know that good work is recognized (and, conversely, that less than ideal performances result in reasonable opportunities to improve).
The absence of any one of these three legs undermines advisor development efforts. Unfortunately, two of those legs (assessment and reward) are least represented on our campuses.
We began our 'Hot Topics' session by sharing the results of Jayne Drake's (2008) survey of faculty and full-time advisors, followed by an exploration of what was occurring on participants' campuses. Overall, Drake found that faculty advisors, and full-time advisors working in advising centers, reported similar conditions regarding assessment and reward. Faculty, however, reported the additional concern that advising responsibilities should be considered during promotion and tenure reviews. Only 24% of Drake’s respondents indicated that advising assessment was considered during tenure and promotion review. An additional caveat was added in the Drake summary: results of advising assessments were a factor in promotion and tenure mostly at four-year schools. This was mirrored by our session attendees, where about half of the faculty and administrators reported that an advising assessment (supervisor evaluation, student survey, exit /graduation interviews) was conducted at their home institutions, while only about one-quarter noted that advising assessment played a role in tenure and promotion decisions. We asked two questions that went beyond Drake’s survey; answers to those questions produced equally discouraging results. First, only a small number of respondents reported that advising assessment results were actually used by immediate supervisors. We also asked respondents to share what happened at their home institution if a faculty member was found, through the assessment process, to need assistance. Most respondents reported that no corrective mechanism was in place to help that advisor. Based upon these results, we can say that while we are doing better collecting feedback on our faculty advisors, we are not using that information to promote the development of the faculty!
Approximately 70% of Drake's (2008) respondents reported that their institutions had a recognition or reward program for faculty advising services (30% had none). While faculty most valued support (professional development opportunities and secretarial help), tangible rewards (tenure, cash award, or merit pay), or even a simple thank you note were also valued. Least valued were banquets, plaques, certificates, or news releases; these, sadly, were the recognitions and rewards most frequently used at four-year public institutions. In our session survey, over 50% of the respondents reported that there was no reward system at their institutions. Most frequently mentioned by those with recognitions/rewards were awards, stipends, general recognition, and support for conference attendance.
It was particularly interesting to note in the Drake (2008) survey, most faculty ranked professional support as the most important recognition or reward for advising service, yet, no session respondents listed professional development support in their reward systems. However a large majority (over 90%) indicated that faculty advisor training was available at their institutions. The training programs included workshops for new faculty and development sessions offered within a discipline. The training and development sessions were reported in our survey to occur with varying frequency including by request, monthly, and as on-going endeavors. While on-campus training is crucial as the third leg of the professional development cycle, faculty attending the session would not necessarily consider an on-campus workshop a reward.
What have we learned? Advisors still report high personal satisfaction in assisting students in the advising process. We are doing better collecting feedback, but the assessment information is still not utilized to craft faculty development opportunities. Consensus of session attendees was that training still needs to be mandatory for faculty advisors if we are to adequately prepare faculty for the role of advisor. Although tenure and promotion may include an advising component, the weight given to this area is not equal to the importance of the role of advising.
We learned in this hot topic session that not much progress has been made since Drake (2008) reported results of her survey. However, faculty advisors understand the important role advising plays in the success of students. We must continue to advocate for increased assessment, training, rewards, and recognition for this major component of the college process.
Tamra Susan Ortgies-Young
Georgia Perimeter College
Murray State University
Diamond, R. (1999) Aligning faculty rewards with institutional mission: Statements, policies, and guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Drake, J.K. (2008) Recognition and reward for academic advising in theory and in practice. In Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising: A Comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). (pp. 396-412). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cite this article using APA style as: McGillin, V., Ortgies-Young, T.S., & Kem, L. (2010, September). Faculty advisor assessment and reward: A hot topic for our institutions. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]