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Amy Marie Aufdembrink, Missouri State University

Amy Marie Aufdembrink.jpgAre the training and development programs at your institution lecture heavy? Do participants nod off? Do their eyes glaze over as they listen to yet another talking head? While lecture is easy, it may not be effective. Research and experience have shown there are more effective means to reach audiences.

Advisor training and development programs lay the foundation for quality academic advising and enhance the image and reputation of academic advising on campus. How faculty and staff advisors feel about advisor training and development influence how they feel about advising in general. Active training methods out perform lecture for learning and enhance the overall reputation of academic advising at the institutional level.

It is a challenge to plan training and development for overworked, underpaid advisors who have projects piled high on their desks and lines of students at their doors. Academic advisors always have other things they need to do, but advisors also need current information and skills. In an effort to be efficient, coordinators of advisor training and development programs often rely on lecture. Lecture may be quick, but does it result in quality programming? Lecture encourages passive learning where advisors may miss fundamental principles which underlie the subject matter (McCarthy & Anderson, 2000) and thus result in advisors who are unable or unwilling to apply new information, resources or skills. Active training methods, rooted in psychological research on memory, allow advisors to process knowledge deeply, retain information longer and use information more readily (McKeachie, 2002).

Active training methods include group discussions, case studies, individual exercises, role-play simulations, games, quizzes, peer teaching, writing projects and more. Used correctly, active training methods not only enhance learning, but improve the culture of advising at the institutional level. However, active training methods take more planning and preparation. Since activities take longer than traditional lecture, many coordinators opt for lecture. Advisor training and development directors who make the effort find the rewards of active training methods can be huge. Active training methods can boost an institution’s advising culture in three specific ways: 1) help advisors invest in advisement and in the advising community, 2) honor and respect the existing knowledge, skills and experiences of advisors and 3) generate word-of-mouth endorsements.

Wilson (1995) showed that active learning injects trainings with ENERGY. Active learning also engages participants and fosters a sense of involvement (August, Hurtado, Wimsatt & Dey, 2002). The use of active training methods helps participants invest in academic advising and builds a sense of community.

Different active training methods serve different goals. Activities utilizing group interaction specifically generate cohesion (Silberman, 2004; Nagel, 2001). Conflicts and territorialism can be concerns when advisors from a variety of departments are brought together. When group interaction activities are used, an alliance forms among advisors (Silberman, 2004; Nagel, 2001).

Cooperative activities generate tolerance, acceptance of others, and inclusion of outsiders (August, Hurtado, Wimsatt & Dey, 2002; Slavin, 1987). Active training can simultaneously break down barriers and knit together an advising community while introducing new topics and covering advising material. Where there is cohesion within a group, there will also be greater commitment and motivation related to that group’s goals and achievement of those goals (Johnson & Johnson, 2004; McCarthy & Anderson, 2000).

Program coordinators should keep in mind the larger goals of advisor training and development; these can include the development of an advising community and helping advisors invest in advising. The “kiss of death” for any advisor training and development program is allowing facilitators or participants to insult or patronize advisors.

Regardless of advising experience, each participant brings experiences, knowledge and skills to the training session. Advisors are well educated and bright individuals. Active learning works best when participants’ own experiences are utilized and emphasis is placed on realistic scenarios (Silberman, 2004). The wise facilitator takes advantage of what advisors bring to training and honor it. Advisors are energized when active learning allows for personalization of information that enhances understanding (McCarthy & Anderson, 2000). When advisors are allowed to reference their experiences, application of information is more obvious (Silberman, 2004).

Facilitators should recognize that both trainers and participants can be teachers. Peer teaching is an excellent way to activate training; it works for a variety of content and learning levels (McKeachie, 2002). Teaching material to others requires assignment of meaning and practical application of the material, activities that further enhances the advising culture because practical learning positively impacts attitude change (Sternberg, 2002)

To ensure that advisors leave advisor training and development programming with positive impressions, facilitators should respect advisors, engage them, foster community, and finally make sure that the training is enjoyable. Many individuals find lecture boring; they prefer engagement and believe that they learn best from activity (August, Hurtado, Wimsatt & Dey, 2002). While there may be debate over whether adults truly learn more from active methods (McCarthy & Anderson, 2000; Miller & Groccia, 1997), there is no debate over whether adults enjoy active methods more than lecture (August, Hurtado, Wimsatt & Dey, 2002; McCarthy & Anderson, 2000; Miller & Groccia, 1997).

One of the most credible endorsements of advisor training and development is word-of-mouth. When training is informative, applicable, AND enjoyable advisors talk about it; they encourage others to attend. When advisors respect and appreciate their training, they respect and appreciate academic advising and the campus advising culture is enhanced.

Active training methods can help facilitators provide training and development that is not only informative, but practical and enjoyable. Active training ensures that advisors have complete and functional knowledge of advising materials and skills. While improved advisor knowledge and application is necessary, one of the greatest results of active advising training methods is the positive effect it can have on the campus advising community.

Amy Marie Aufdembrink
Academic Advisement Center
Missouri State University
[email protected]


August, L., Hurtado, S., Wimisatt, L.A., & Dey, E.L. (2002). “Learning styles: Student preferences vs. faculty perceptions.” Annual Forum for the Association for Institutional Research. Ontario, Canada.

Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (2004). Assessing students in groups: Promoting group responsibility and individual accountability. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

McCarthy, J.P. & Anderson, L. (2000). Active learning techniques versus traditional teaching styles: Two experiments from history and political science. Innovative Higher Education, 24, 279-294.

McKeachie, W.J. (2002). Creationist vs. Evolutionary Beliefs: Effects on Learning Biology.The American Biology Teacher, 64 (3), 189-191.

Miller, J. & Groccia, J. (1997). Are four heads better than one? Ac comparison of cooperative and traditional teaching formats in an introductory biology course. Innovative Higher Education, 21, 253-273.

Nagel, G.K. (2001). Effective grouping for literacy instruction. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Silberman, M. (Ed.). (2004). The best of active training: 25 one-day workshops guaranteed to promote involvement learning and change. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Slavin, R.E. (1987). Cooperative learning: Student teams (2 nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Education Association.

Sternberg, R.J. (2002). Raising the achievement of all students: Teaching for successful intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 14, 383-393.

Wilson, J. B. (1995). Mapping a winning training approach: A practical guide to choosing the right training methods. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer. 

Cite this article using APA style as: Aufdembrink, A. (2007, June). Let them snooze and you lose: An argument for active training methods. Academic Advising Today, 30(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2007 June 30:2


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