Marion K. Russell Dickson, University of Houston
For today's learners, discernment in choosing a career can be influenced by certain people and factors including “family, culture, and community” (Singaravelu, 2005, p. 48). Some students exhibit difficulty in career choice based on pressure to focus on a professional path that has lucrative results, even if this career is not their first choice in relation to their primary interests or academic passions. However, fine and performing arts students who are supported by their community, whether familial, cultural, or both, maintain confidence in their decision to focus on goals of creativity, expression, and communication. Therefore, it is important for students in the arts to be supported by advisors who have a keen understanding of the field and who call the arts their professional home.
Advisors who appreciate the arts, and respect those creative students who study them, can lead these undergraduate students through decision-making processes with a confident mindset. This mindset can allow learners to make choices during their collegiate study that focus on their successes in relation to their talent, intellect, and training, all within an in-depth introspection of the study of human experience. Discussions can include students reflecting on outside forces that either support or thwart their professional intentions within the arts, and then include an active analysis of professional pathways that address concerns and support the drive to create. Self-efficacy, therefore, promoted by the advisor and advisee collaboration directly correlates to successful academic experiences and student success in preparation for artistic careers. For advisors who want to develop strategies and skills to collaborate with artist-students, certain theories and applications within the field of advising can assist advisors in doing just this. “Advising as Teaching,” as introduced by Burns B. Crookston (1972), provides the framework needed for artistic students to move through development within their artistic mindset during this critical time in an artistic-academic career.
When investigating and applying the model of “Advising as Teaching,” advisors can guide artistic students towards an autonomous mindset. According to Appleby, there is a direct comparison of knowledge and skill sets found in both advising and teaching. Effective teachers “act as co-learners during the learning process,” just as effective advisors focus on “setting performance goals for themselves and their advisees,” (Appleby, 2008, p. 87). Advisees are able to progressively co-construct their goals, within a developmental approach, alongside their advisors. This exemplifies one of the pedagogical principles set forth by Hemwell and Trachte (2005) in relation to learning-centered advising: “Advisees must be allowed an equal part in the dialogue, with the freedom and the obligation to express, justify and discuss their goals and ideas” (p. 80). With the intention of leading students through goal setting activities, advisors ask students questions that, based on students responses, can adjust and evaluate students’ goals. . Therefore, in accordance with the institution’s artistic-academic curriculum, these co-developed goals , can be implemented in the advising syllabi that accompanies the student. This co-participatory process feeds into the collaborative relationship that can provide an opportunity for advisors to mentor their students within an environment of trust, one stage of development at a time.
Artist-students can, and should, be provided a trusted and experiential relationship with their advisors through additional ethical standards that relate to this learner-centric method. Another advising principle that exemplifies this approach is the first of nine ethical principles for advising: “Seek to enhance the student’s learning whenever possible,” (Lowenstein, 2008, p. 41). Supporting performing arts students, who are expected to be leaders in the realms of truth-telling through their art, advisors can employ this principle for optimal student benefit. Metacognitive explorations may include prompting reflections on the student’s artistic achievements in relation to performance in their classes, as well as the student’s capture of methods and techniques in relation to specific artistic measurements as set forth by faculty. Working towards an end-of-year, project-based activity, this evolution and ultimate culmination of the student’s artistic and academic experiences each year can be integrated within an interactive portfolio, enhancing the overall learning experience.
Related to the advising principle mentioned above, Campbell and Nutt mention in their article “Academic advising in the new global century,” that the “focus of attention ought to be on developing value-added educational opportunities that actively engage students in their own learning” (Campbell & Nutt, 2008, p. 4). Advisors can take the opportunity to encourage artistic learners to be campus leaders by creating and participating in artistic experiences on campus. This can build a sense of belonging and community-engagement on behalf of all involved. As students immerse themselves through campus performances and outreach, they experience an increase in their overall learning, with concrete experience in management, production, and performance skills.
Advising practices based on new theories and philosophies allow for a more hermeneutic approach (Wilcox, 2016). Developmental-type approaches, including Strengths-Based Advising, Appreciative Advising, and Socratic Advising approaches, allow for the advisor and advisee to interpret, as a team, different facets of the learner’s journey. Wilcox (2016) shares her premise of learning outcomes based on four transition points of this journey. Each of these transition points can be evidenced in any degree program, including those in the arts. The first-year objectives for the learner are awareness, discovery, and self-assessment (Wilcox, 2016). As young artists (no matter the physical age) begin their collegiate journey, this type of self-discovery relates directly to their technical and cognitive ability within their artform; this self-discovery is integral to their artistic identity at this time in their academic career.
The second and third points of objectives revolve around higher-level coursework. The second outcomes are found, according to Wilcox (2016), when the learner transitions into these higher-level courses, and include exploration, comparison, and the ability to weigh options. This type of examination can extend to studies of different styles of compositional aspects, methods, and techniques; analysis of these modes and differentials between simple and complex interactions open into a wealth of critical thinking. Wilcox continues to share the third point of objectives, or outcomes, as occurring when students transfer experiences during these higher-level courses. They should be able to make excellent decisions and apply what they are learning across their academic spectrum (Wilcox, 2016). Advisors should be able to support students with achieving these outcomes through on-going advising collaborations. Students can be guided to create a definition of their vision of artistic success in public spaces outside the studio and performance hall through discussions that challenge, inquire, and augment student experiences.
Learning-Centered Advising Objectives Key Transition Points Framed for Students in the Arts (Wilcox, 2016; adapted with permission from NACADA)
The final outcomes Wilcox (2016) mentions occur when the learner is prepared to exit the undergraduate programming and move forward into a professional career or advanced degree. The outcomes focus on the learner being able to integrate and transfer knowledge acquired during their undergraduate experiences within individualized projects (Wilcox, 2016). Artists have the requirement of accomplishing this in a recital or showcase that culminates and exemplifies technical, musical, theatrical, linguistic, and other artistic skills acquired during their undergraduate journey. Advanced student study and artistic experience within a program or studio, in a formal degree program or an internship-professional post, leads to the self-authorship that has been the overall goal during the student’s undergraduate study.
Each semester students in the arts have an opportunity to grow more deeply into an understanding of themselves and others around them. The collaboration between the advisor and their artist-student throughout this journey, as built through the “Advising as Teaching” model, can affect the student’s ability to reflect, to choose, to grow, to exemplify, and to achieve. Advising students in the arts can have an incredible impact on the learner, and their community of practice, by choosing to engage in this way. The ripple effect can be quite powerful, from the level of the individual and their personal value, to the artistic-academic cohort, and the overall artistic community.
Appleby, D. (2008). Advising as teaching and learning. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Hadley, T. J. Grites, et al., (Eds), Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2nd ed., pp. 85–102). Jossey-Bass.
Campbell, S. M., & Nutt, C. L. (2008). Academic advising in the new global century. Peer Review, 10(1), 4–7.
Crookston, B. (1972). A developmental view of advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13(1), 12–17.
Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 74–83. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-25.2.74
Lowenstein, M. (2008). Ethical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R., Hadley, T. J. Grites, et al., (Eds), Academic Advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 36–49). Jossey-Bass.
Singaravelu, H. D., White, L. J., & Brangaze, T. B. (2005). Factors influencing international students’ career choice: A comparative study. Journal of Career Development, 32(1), 46–59. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845305277043
Wilcox, E. (2016). An end to checklist thinking: Learning-centered advising in practice. NACADA Clearinghouse. http://nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/6101/article.aspx
William Smith, III, Ph. D., Indiana University
Jason Barkemeyer, University of Houston