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The Theoretical Reflections series is sponsored by the NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission with the assistance of Chair Sarah Champlin-Scharff (Harvard University) and Past-Chair Shannon Burton (Michigan State University).

As NACADA and Jossey-Bass make final preparations on the Academic Advising Approaches book that will debut this October at the NACADA Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, this is a perfect time to start to think about our own personal approach to academic advising.  This book doesn’t propose picking the “best” or the “right” approach to advising; instead the book presents overviews of a variety of advising approaches and it is clear that there is more than one right answer in terms of how to deliver high quality advising to our students. The reality is that there are a smorgasbord of options for informing and improving our approach to our work as academic advisors.  And, as individuals we all have the power to choose for ourselves our own Personal Practical Theories (PPTs) of Academic Advising.  The purpose of this article is to give an overview of PPTs and to give advisors an opportunity to develop their own PPT of academic advising. 

PPT Overview

Researchers exploring the relationship between teacher beliefs and their classroom practices found that teachers’ experiences impact what they believe teaching should be like and that teachers form their own theories in teaching (Clandinin, 1986; Cornett, 1990; Cornett, Yeotis, & Terwilliger, 1990). Conett (1990) defined PPTs as the systematic set of beliefs (theories) guiding teachers’ practices (practical) that are based on their prior life experiences (personal).  Surfacing their PPTs enables teachers to be more cognizant of their rationale for ongoing decision making and empowers them to become reflective practitioners (He & Levin, 2008; Levin & He, 2008). Similarly, academic advisors also bring their own experiences into advising practices. Identifying PPTs that inform advising practices could allow advisors to become more thoughtful and reflective in applying and adapting various advising approaches and theories in their unique advising contexts (Hutson, Bloom, & He, 2009).

Developing Our Own PPT

Academic advisors can develop their own PPTs by completing the following chart. In the left hand column write down what you deem to be the characteristics of excellent academic advisors, and in the right hand column write down where you first learned this from or experienced this (Hutson, Bloom, & He, 2009).  Note that there are no right or wrong answers and the source can be from a wide variety of people, including teachers, parents, relatives, co-workers, etc.:

My Personal Practical Theory of Being an Excellent Academic Advisor is……

Personal Practical Theory

Source – Where did I learn this from?

Example: Excellent academic advisors have high expectations for students.



Example: My high school English teacher had exceptionally high expectations for me and my classmates and she pushed us to become better writers than we thought we were capable of becoming.









Once the Academic Advising Approaches book is released, advisors can update this chart with new information and insights gained from reading the book.

Jennifer L. Bloom
Clinical Professor
University of South Carolina-Columbia
[email protected]

Ye He
Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
[email protected]


Clandinin, D. J. (1986). Classroom practice. London: Falmer.

Cornett, J. W. (1990). Teacher thinking about curriculum and instruction: A case study of a secondary social studies teacher. Theory and Research in Social Education, 18, 248-273.

Cornett, J. W., Yeotis, C., & Terwilliger, L. (1990). Teacher personal practice theories and their influences upon teacher curricular and instructional actions: A case study of a secondary science teacher. Science Education, 74, 517-529.

He, Y. & Levin, B. B. (2008). Match or mismatch? How congruent are the beliefs of teacher candidates, teacher educators, and field mentors? Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 37-55.

Hutson, B. L., Bloom, J. L., & He, Y. (2009). Reflection in advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(4), 12.

Levin, B. B., & He, Y. (2008). Investigating the content and sources of preservice teachers’ personal practical theories (PPTs). Journal of Teacher Education. 59(1), 55-68.


Cite this article using APA style as: Bloom, J.L., & He, Y. (2013, March). Theoretical reflections: Personal practical pheory. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2013 March 36:1


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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.