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Shantalea Johns and Helen H. Wilson, Wayne State University

Helen Wilson.jpgShantalea Johns.jpgAs new standards develop to meet the changing needs of higher education, group advising has become an essential component of student success.  Relationships among students often develop through groups; some occur naturally, while others form intentionally.  Group advising offers avenues of support that help students adjust to college life, reinforce and improve skills vital to persistence in college, and develop skills that are increasingly essential in the professional world.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (2017), employers seek job candidates who possess problem-solving skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, and interpersonal skills.  Interactive group advising sessions give students a chance to practice these skills employers seek in job candidates.  Equally, the conceptual component of the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (2017) stresses the importance of advisors learning new academic advising approaches and strategies to improve student success. Effective group advising is one strategy advisors can use to create learning experiences that can boost student success and provide skills to prepare students for the job market.

Applying Theoretical Framework to Group Advising

Social Learning Theory.  Bandura's Social Learning Theory (SLT) has been a prominent theory that explained the impact of learning on behavior.  Specifically, social learning theory contends that peer groups help to create social norms (Bandura, 1977).  In applying social learning theory to group advising sessions, learning takes place when advisors bring various students together to discuss their experiences in higher education.  In sharing their experiences, more seasoned students help to socialize new students to college and their future career in a social context on campus.  Within this social context, at-risk students can be socialized with more experienced students who can offer a broad range of knowledge and skills useful for success in college.  Light (2001) stated that “to learn from one another, students with different backgrounds and from different racial and ethnic groups must interact" (p. 190).

Developmental Advising.  Developmental advising is useful for advisors who are interested in helping students accomplish personal and educational goals (Crookston, 2009).  An advisor who leads a group session can help students accomplish their goals by fostering a close student-advisor relationship.  A close student-advisor connection can occur when advisors share their own successes and barriers encountered while achieving a college degree.  Advisors can share what steps they took during their academic journey and encourage students to seek resources on campus if they find themselves in similar situations.  This technique can help both students who are having difficulty following through on an educational goal and others who are forming their college identity.

How Group Advising Promotes Student Success

Academic advising is an integral part of student success (Ellis, 2016; Light, 2001).  In a group setting, advisors can promote success by having students, pursuing the same major, interact with one another to learn about their degree requirements.  King (2000) stated that a powerful result of the group experience is for the student to not feel alone.  During these interactions, students within the same major learn that others may share similar feelings, thoughts, or questions.

Equally important, research supports that students are more successful when they connect early to the university.  Nutt (2000) explained that connecting students to a mentor and peer group is invaluable in establishing a student's connection to an institution.  Effective group advising provides students a connection to a peer group and an advisor.  Advisors that use group advising facilitate problem-solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting with their students, as outlined in the relational component of the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (2017).  Examples of group advising that form connections to a university are orientation programs, freshman seminars, capstone courses, learning communities, pre-enrollment meetings, and workshops.  Successful group advising utilizes the power of the group cohesion to help students reach their academic goals.

Ways to Be Effective with Group Advising

  • Decide if group advising is right for you. Some group advising will require more of a facilitator role, while other types will need more of an instructional approach.  It is essential to decide if your advising style fits with group advising.  For a group advising event to be successful, advisors need to give an honest assessment of their own personality to see if it fits with group advising (Ryan, 2010).

  • Decide if group or individual advising is appropriate for student(s).  Advisors need to think about whether an individual or group advising approach would be more appropriate for their specific students.  For example, an individual advising approach would be more appropriate when an advisor needs to discuss confidential information with the student.  On the other hand, a group advising approach allows students to interact with each other to understand themselves better or listen to a presentation in a group where other students can support the understanding of the material through questions and comments.

  • Plan appropriately.  Group advising requires planning in the following ways: locate a space that is functional for group advising; inform students of the session using multiple means of communication, such as e-mail, social media, and flyers; prepare engaging materials and handouts that students can take with them to refer to later (e.g., worksheets, curriculum guides, lists of important dates, and information on campus resources); and develop a clear agenda for the meeting (King, 2000).

Another item in planning for group advising is cost considerations.  For example, advisors or advising administrators can do a cost-benefit analysis to determine the strengths and weaknesses of individual verse group advising sessions.  A cost-saving analysis helps to determine the best approach to benefit the students while preserving savings for the university.  Research showed in some cases group advising responds creatively and intentionally to the issue of budgetary constraints on college campuses (King, 2000; Ryan, 2010).

  • Be aware of strategies for successful group facilitation.  Icebreakers, introductions, and problem-based learning experiences are essential to establishing a climate in which students feel comfortable.  Equally important, at the beginning of the group, it is helpful to discuss the broader purpose of advising as a means of assisting students in establishing appropriate and meaningful educational plans.

  • Be familiar with campus resources to make appropriate referrals when necessary.  Students attending group advising sessions may have some specific needs beyond the scope of the session.  In these instances, it is essential that an advisor be well-connected on campus and understand campus resources to make appropriate referrals when necessary.

  • Evaluate student experiences with group advising.  Assessment and evaluation certify that students are getting the most out of the sessions.  In writing assessment questions, advisors need to create questions that evaluate the student's experience in the group as well as assess the attainment of the learning outcomes for the group.  If the questions for the assessment are written well, the evaluation results will be more relevant to advisors.

In closing, there is indeed power in numbers.  Group advising provides a necessary service that offers respect for the dignity and uniqueness of each student.  It gives the opportunity for students to ask questions among a group of peers, which pushes students toward a cohesive understanding of the college experience.  It also acts as a safeguard against misinformation and misrepresentation by presenting material in a group setting.  Finally, group advising sessions give advisors a chance to deliver services more efficiently and effectively at a reduced cost.  In essence, group advising is an excellent way for academic advisors to promote student success!

Shantalea Johns, L.M.S.W.
Academic Services Officer III
Wayne State University School of Social Work
[email protected]

Helen H. Wilson, L.M.S.W.
Academic Advisor IV
Wayne State University Pre-Med and Health Science Center
[email protected]


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Crookston, B. B. (2009). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 29(1), 78-82. doi:10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.78. Retrieved from http://www.nacadajournal.org/doi/abs/10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.78

Ellis, K. (2016). It takes a campus. Oxford, MS: The Nautilus Publishing Company.

King, N. (2000). Advising delivery: Group strategies. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, and Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (p. 279). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2017, November). Job outlook 2018. Bethlehem, PA. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/store/2017/job-outlook-2018/

Nutt, C. (2000). One-on-one advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, and Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 220-227). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ryan, B. (2010, March). Integrating group advising into a comprehensive advising program. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Integrating-Group-Advising-into-a-Comprehensive-Advising-Program.aspx


Cite this article using APA style as: Johns, S., & Wilson, H.H. (2018, September). There is power in numbers: Utilizing group advising to promote student success. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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