AAT banner

Voices of the Global Community

Matthew Church, University of Louisville

Advising is changing daily. Technological advancements and increased distance education have the potential to drastically change current advising practice. Calls for accountability and the increasing litigious nature of American society have added more concerns and pressures to advisors' daily activities. Increased caseloads and lack of resources often preclude advisors from being able to engage in holistic developmental advising. This article will present the integrative approach to advising, which is a more flexible method that draws from a variety of other perspectives (Church, 2005). Many advising approaches have merit, but they may not correlate to the hectic work environment faced by many advisors.

The aim of the integrative method is flexibility and utility in academic advising matters (Church, 2005). It is a combination of elements of other approaches, such as developmental and prescriptive. The integrative method has five main components/steps:

  1. a core grounded in the NACADA Core Values and the ethical traits of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and fidelity (Kitchener, 2000);
  2. an element of prescriptive advising to convey curricular essentials;
  3. a focus on a well-rounded education;
  4. reductive advising; and
  5. student approval (Church, 2005).

The first step – a core grounded in the NACADA Core Values and ethical traits – is more akin to a mindset, but it is a necessity nonetheless. While it is hoped this is always in the minds of advisors, there are times when external events can fluster or distract even the best of us. Every advising appointment, even before we meet with the student, should begin with reminding ourselves of the Core Values. Advisors must be continually aware that we are responsible to the individuals we advise, our institutions, higher education, and to ourselves. While simplistic, this refocusing puts into perspective the importance of academic advising and reminds us that we are working for many different interests, giving added impetus to perform thoroughly and efficiently.

The second step is rather standard for any advising encounter: an element of prescriptive advising. Prescriptive advising involves a one-way flow of information and a hierarchical relationship, with the student as a passive recipient (Lowenstein, 1999). The integrative approach utilizes the one-way flow of information to convey requirements, but does not incorporate other aspects of prescriptive advising. In this step, the advisor lays out the remaining requirements and status of the student's academic career. Prescriptive advising can frame the appointment and allow us to use the remaining requirements as a jumping off point to discussing potential majors or interests.

The third step, an increasingly vital step, is a focus on a well-rounded education. Some students believe that the completion of the general education requirements affords them a well-rounded education, but 'a checklist is not an education' (Hones and Sullivan-Vance, 2005). Advisors need to help students identify how they can benefit from the collegiate experience. Students benefit from the skills they learn in college as much as their coursework. Advisors need to help students identify how they can attain the best education possible. Questions dealing with other interests or skills can assist students in making full use of their course selections. A biology major, for instance, may improve his or her writing immensely in a literature course. A history major may develop a life long environmental interest through a climatology course. The key is to help students learn as much as possible, so they truly benefit from their collegiate education.

The fourth step is the application of reductive advising to course selection. Reductive advising involves identifying career ambitions, major, or student interests and employing deduction to identify and suggest individual courses related to larger interests. This approach is particularly useful when dealing with electives and supporting coursework. For instance, if a biology major who is interested in applying to medical school comes to an appointment with the goal of choosing an elective course, but lacking ideas for what to take, the advisor could reduce the student's career ambitions into recommending a general psychology course. The rationale for this suggestion would be that all medical students do rotations their third and fourth year. One of the third year rotations is psychiatry, and taking the undergraduate psychology course would give the student an opportunity to have some prior acquaintance with the field. Similar circumstances exist with pre-law students and logic courses, as well as business students and economic geography courses. The main goal of this step is to take the long term and somewhat abstract and reduce it to actual course recommendations.

The last step ties into the first step; it is student approval. Ultimately, the preceding process is done for the immediate benefit of the student, who has the final say in course selection. While it is possible that the student may disagree, if the advisor has consulted with the student and worked through possible course options and selections, as well as career goals, the student is likely to agree with and pursue the recommendations made by the advisor. The result of this process is students who are satisfied with their advising experiences and schedules, as well as advisors who have successfully carried out their advising responsibilities.

There is no guaranteed best approach to advising. Developmental advising is an excellent approach, but there is not always time to follow a holistic advising approach. Many advisors have large numbers of advisees and work in advising centers where students do not have the same advisor each visit. With this situation, there may not always be opportunity to establish an extended advising relationship with a student. Constraints such as staffing and large caseloads give rise to situations where the integrative approach is most appropriate. The integrative approach is not holistic and does not lend itself to the deeper goals of developmental advising; neither is it as dictatorial as prescriptive advising. The integrative approach is a solution to dealing with the increasing responsibilities and numbers associated with academic advising. It not only involves the reaffirmation of why advisors advise and the importance of the student, but outlines an approach that is quite applicable to all advising encounters.

Matthew Church
University of Louisville
[email protected]


Church, M. (2005). Integrative theory of academic advising: A proposition. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal 7 (2). Retrieved from the World Wide Web at http://www.psu.edu/dus/mentor.

Hones, S. and Sullivan-Vance, K. (2005). Liberal arts in the 21st century. Academic Advising Today, 28(4). 

King, M.C. (2005) Developmental academic advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resource website at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/dev_adv.htm

Kitchener, K. S. (2000). Foundations of ethical practice, research, and teaching in psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lowenstein, M. (1999, November 22). An alternative to the developmental theory of advising. T he Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 1 (4). Retrieved from the World Wide Web at http://www.psu.ed/dus/mentor.

NACADA. (2004). NACADA Statement of Core Values of Academic Advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values.htm

Cite this article using APA style as: Church, M. (2006, June). Integrative approach to academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 29(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2006 June 29:2


There are currently no comments, be the first to post one!

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.
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.