Kim Paige, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient
In many higher education institutions, retention initiatives have become the buzz in student learning, department and program outcomes, and institutional goals. Academic advising is one of the critical student services that is central to holistic student development and student learning in higher education. While many institutions provide academic advising for students, little evaluation of the effectiveness of this student service has been conducted; yet, academic advising plays a critical role in the retention, persistence, and success of students in higher education communities (Drake, Jordan, & Miller, 2013). For academic advising programs to be an effective asset to support student development, persistence, and retention initiatives, institutions must create comprehensive assessment plans that are strategically focused in assessment. The NACADA Assessment Institute provides many opportunities that can help align strategies for developing, implementing, maintaining, and coining best practices in assessment in academic advising.
Assessment is seen as an accountability measure and is emphasized in the NACADA Assessment Institute as a process that should be positive, ongoing, and focused on the feedback toward the improvement of services (Hernon & Dugan, 2004). From the very basics to the most comprehensive assessment strategies, the NACADA Assessment Institute can provide the knowledge to create multifaceted assessment plans that fit specific program and institutional needs. National research has shown that the assessment of advising services is one of the most ignored formal evaluation practices at many undergraduate institutions (Cuseo, 2008). Specifically, five national surveys showed that only 29% of colleges and universities assess advisor effectiveness (Habley & Morales, 1998). With an understanding that academic advising plays an essential role in the development and influence of students’ personal, academic, and societal perspectives and success in higher education, the evaluation of advising programs and academic advisors should be a top priority.
Participation in the NACADA Assessment Institute can help provide knowledge and skills to fill the gaps of effectiveness in advising, student learning, program outcomes, and institutional outcomes. The Assessment Institute repertoire is an endless resource to help advising programs develop key benchmarks and practices that support the successful persistence and retention of students in post-secondary education (Drake et al., 2013). By developing an ongoing cycle of assessment for undergraduate academic advising programs, higher education institutions can change how this accountability tool increases student learning, professional responsibility, institutional effectiveness, and the overall quality of academic advising.
Developing a Working Tool in Advising Assessment
The primary measure of understanding and improving advising services on many campus can be heavily focused on survey data that has been collected through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The NSSE is valuable in collecting and assessing the college experiences of students and can assist institutions in measuring effective academic practices (Pike, 2013). However, internal, program- or department-specific assessment measures can give focus on a working tool in advising assessment. An assessment plan is a living, working tool that serves to improve advising services, student retention, and persistence rates towards timely graduation. The NACADA Assessment Institute provides the groundwork for developing and implementing this working tool. Below outlines the pivotal personal learning outcomes from the NACADA Assessment Institute.
1. Develop an assessment team
Assessment is a shared venture that requires perpetual strides to improve advising services and programs, while simultaneously improving accountability and effectiveness (Walvoord, 2004). Developing an assessment team helps identify what is important in the program’s mission and values to effectively advise and support students.
2. Start with an advising mission
Every advising program should have a mission statement that provides a synopsis of beliefs, aims, and goals in supporting the purpose and priorities of academic advising (Walvoord, 2004). Whether starting from scratch or revising a current mission statement, advising programs should start with developing a mission statement that reflects current objectives and provides future direction for advising services for the specific program and/or department.
3. Develop advising goals and objectives
Goals and objectives for every sector of advising on campus should seek to
- provide current and relevant information to students,
- promote student success with an emphasis on collaboration and shared responsibility for the student and advisor,
- promote holistic student development in advising and learning,
- reflect and review advising services to improve offerings to students, and
- evaluate and assess all advising activities and services annually.
4. Identify program and/or department-specific student learning outcomes
Academic programs and/or majors should identify student learning outcomes that are specifically mapped to academic advising goals. When student learning outcomes are strategically identified and mapped to advising goals, students are more knowledgeable of advising processes that promote student progress and facilitation towards graduation.
5. Determine the most appropriate and effective assessment instruments
The appropriate assessment instrument(s) can help gather the most effective data/information to evaluate advising services and student and program needs. Survey instruments provide quantitative data, while focus groups can provide more detailed, qualitative data.
Closing the Gaps
Assessment can be viewed as a scary task that unveils defaults in services and programs that support student learning in higher education, especially among academic advisors. Time and time again the old adage that “numbers don’t lie” has had advisors cringing in their chairs about what the numbers say about the many services provided to students and effects of those services on student persistence and retention. However, advisors are seen as the one constant that touches a student’s academic and college experience throughout their college years. For this reason, assessment of student learning as related to academic advising should not just be highly driven by outside stakeholders, such as accreditation requirements, but become a consistent practice for internal improvement.
The NACADA Assessment Institute highlights the critical nature of advising assessment as a must-have for ongoing quality improvement and standards that support successful student learning outcomes (Campbell & Nutt, 2008). Advising assessment is the cornerstone to effective change in promoting student persistence, retention, and completion of degree requirements. Advising assessment also serves as the channel for continuous feedback to support assessment initiatives and goals (Campbell & Nutt, 2008) toward closing gaps in academic advising services. To get this channel of resources flowing, sign up for the NACADA Assessment Institute . . . a strategic move you won’t regret!
Academic Advisor II
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Campbell, S. M., & Nutt, C. L. (2008). Academic advising in the new global century: Supporting student engagement and learning outcomes achievement. Peer Review, 10(1), 4–7.
Cuseo, J. (2008). Assessing advisor effectiveness. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 369-385). San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass.
Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Habley, W. R., & Morales, R, H. (1998). Current practices in academic advising: Final report on ACT’s fifth national survey of academic advising [Monograph Series, no. 6]. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Hernon, P., & Dugan, R. E. (2004). Outcomes assessment in higher education: Views and perspectives. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Pike, G. R. (2013). The updated National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Assessment Update, 25(4), 10.
Walvoord, B. E. F. (2004). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.