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Luiza Dreasher, Iowa State University

During the 2012 Annual Conference in Nashville, more than 50 individuals gathered for a very stimulating discussion on Jane Pizzolato’s article Complex Partnerships: Self-Authorship and Provocative Academic-Advising Practices (2006).  Luiza Dreasher (Iowa State University) and Sarah Champlin-Scharff (Harvard University) led the discussion, while members of the Research Committee supported the event by serving as table facilitators.  NACADA members received an electronic copy of the article prior to the conference.  A handout including a summary of the article, main findings, and potential discussion topics was available to all who attended the Common Reading.  The article was carefully selected by members of the Research Committee because it supported research done by Marcia Baxter Magolda, who was a keynote speaker at the 36th Annual Conference.

2012 Common Reading.jpg

Summary of the Article

In the article, Pizzolato discusses the concept of self-authorship as well as strategies advisors can use to help students develop skills for solving problems and making purposeful decisions.  Self-authorship focuses on careful consideration of external factors with internally defined beliefs, goals, and sense of self.  According to Pizzolato, self-authored students will not follow parental expectations uncritically; they don’t expect advisors to tell them what to do, and their decisions are not based on instinct or passion.  Instead, she found that students who exhibited self-authorship qualities made their decisions after carefully considering multiple perspectives – from advisors, family, and other authority figures.  They also took into consideration their own academic, career, and personal goals.  Self-authored students also considered their short- and long-term goals, as well as the constraints of their particular situation (i.e., financial limitations, requirements, etc.).  In other words, self-authored students considered multiple perspectives before making a decision and balanced their goals with the advice of others.  

Self-authorship is facilitated through the Learning Partnership Model for student development.  As advisors, we should encourage our students to reflect on their goals from a number of different perspectives and devise a plan to achieve them.  Students need to consider potential pitfalls, how they will cope with those obstacles as well as consider the implications of their choices.  Advising practices that encourage the development of self-authorship and support the development of decision-making skills include:

  • Having students make lists of pros and cons or lists of talents and weaknesses with regard to a certain major
  • Pushing students to think about the life they want
  • Helping them cope with family expectations
  • Helping them find an alternative route to meet their goals, and consider multiple perspectives
  • Encouraging students beyond wallowing in their disappointment; it is essential to help them reframe the situation so they can move forward
  • Engaging students in reflective conversations to help them clarify obstacles and learn how to address those difficulties
  • Most of all, asking a lot of open-ended questions and listening.

Some of the topics that were discussed during the Common Reading included:

  • The methodology used in the article
  • The need for training so advisors can feel more comfortable with students’ discomfort
  • The need to ask provocative questions and to listen attentively to the students’ voices and stories
  • The need for advisors to be self-authored themselves, and
  • The importance of measuring self-authorship as it relates to student retention

Participants also discussed the fact that self-authorship is a U.S.-based concept.  When working with an international student population advisors must rely on their cultural competence skills in order to advise effectively across cultures.  Another interesting discussion centered on the idea that self-authorship is much like planting a seed; with the proper care, students will develop it.

The Mission of the Common Reading Program

The NACADA Common Reading Program was designed to engage the membership with research and literature related to academic advising and other advising issues.  Grounding our practice on scholarly work strengthens our knowledge base and, ultimately, our profession.  More importantly, it can also serve as a springboard for us to launch our own inquiries.  

Because many of our colleagues are not able to join us at the annual  conference, the Research Committee challenges regional conference chairs to make the Common Reading a regular event at regional conferences – whether discussing work related to a conference speaker, conference theme, or even an article produced by a regional colleague.  This way, a larger constituency will have the opportunity to engage in stimulating conversation with other colleagues, hopefully leave feeling they learned something, contributed to the discussion, and feel empowered they too can ground their practices in scholarship.  

Luiza Dreasher
Multicultural Liaison Officer/Academic Adviser
Iowa State University
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Multicultural Student Services
[email protected]


Pizzolato, J, E.  (2006) Complex partnerships: Self-authorship and provocative advising practices. NACADA Journal, 26(1).


Cite this article using APA style as:

Dreasher, L. (2012, December). NACADA common reading – Annual Conference 2012. Academic Advising Today, 35(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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