Dana Zahorik, Peer Advising & Mentoring Commission Chair
Budgets of higher education institutions have reflected a decline in available dollars, which has led to a decrease in services in areas such as advising (Reinarz, 2005). NACADA members, in various articles, monograph chapters, and presentations, have educated advisors on alternative methods of delivering advising services when available dollars decrease. Habley (2004) found that 42% of colleges and universities utilized peer advising services.
Koring and Campbell (2005) noted that development and implementation of a peer advising program can create an additional resource for students and assist staff in meeting advising needs more efficiently. However, many staff and faculty are unsure how or where to begin in developing a peer advising program. A framework that helps ensure that crucial information is available can be helpful in beginning the development process. Advisors who follow the steps below will have documents that can turn ideas into institutional action.
The first step in the process is to declare a goal. Identification of goals for a peer advising project will assist in achieving the desired results. An example of a goal would be to better leverage resources or to reduce advisor/student ratio.
The second step is to define how the goal(s) align with current college strategic directions, goals, mission and/or vision. Tying the project to college initiatives creates an opportunity for administrator support of the project.
Third, identify the campus leaders who will manage the project. These leaders should then name a committee responsible for the creation of the peer advising program. This committee can identify training and supervision needs and other necessary program components. The committee should also list project sponsors, informally known as cheerleaders, who are the student leaders, faculty, staff, and administrators who take interest in the project and will advocate for the creation of the program.
Fourth, the committee members should identify the rationale for the project. Similar to goal identification, in this step the committee must explain in detail how this project will enhance existing advising services. For example, recent results of an institutional student satisfaction survey might suggest a need for assistance in understanding and navigating instructional programs or that the expansion of support services is a student priority. Peer advising would directly address these needs.
Fifth, create a realistic implementation timeline that includes a pilot program. These activities will vary based on the program design, who supervises, etc. A sample timeline could be:
October – Identify coordinator/supervisor of peer advisors
November – Begin work on pilot
December – Identify peer advisor competencies and ways to recruit potential peer advisors
January – Develop curriculum for training peer advisors
February – Conduct interviews with applicants for peer advising positions
March – Train peer advisors
April – Begin peer advising activities
June – Evaluation of pilot program
August – Implement peer advising program department-wide
Sixth, identify the scope of the project. Decide if a department-wide peer advising program will be implemented or if the intentions are to develop the program college wide. The committee may decide to pilot the program in one department with the intention of implementing a college-wide program based on evaluation of the pilot program. Utilize peer advisors and advisees as part of the initial evaluation. The use of surveys and focus groups can provide valuable information on the effectiveness of a pilot.
Seventh, identify the support and resources necessary to the success of the program. Use the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources and NACADA monographs for research and information on existing peer advising programs. Seek institutional, state, or regional grants such as faculty development or technology grants (Fox Valley Technical College staff utilized a Wisconsin Technical College System faculty development grant to develop the curriculum for peer advisor training and a technology grant to expand the training on-line). Look for new and creative ways to expand services rather than just relying on the year-to-year operational budget.
Eighth, identify measurable outcomes. For example, one desired outcome might be to increase student knowledge gained from academic advising. Measurable outcomes are necessary to program evaluation and are helpful in creating a case for keeping or continuing programs.
Ninth, determine how administrators will know change or improvement occurred. Look at data to see if retention rates have increased, examine the results of student focus groups, or compare results of pre/post student satisfaction surveys and student learning outcomes.
Lastly, develop an “issues bin.” When Fox Valley Technical College developed this framework, the issues focused around payment of peer advisors and continuous communication between academic and peer advisors. These became the issues that needed to be addressed if the program was to succeed. Every institution has a different set of issues; therefore it is helpful if an “issues bin” is created specific to each institution’s concerns.
Whether an institution has a student population of 2,000 or 30,000, the framework shared above can provide a starting point for staff interested in utilizing peer advisors. Placing all the issues on paper creates a “big picture” perspective and helps identify the barriers that may be encountered prior to program development. For additional resources on best practices in peer advising, visit the NACADA Clearinghouse.
Fox Valley Technical College
Habley, W.R. (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey (NACADA Monograph No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Koring, H., & Campbell, S. (2005). Peer-advising: Intentional connections to support student learning (NACADA Monograph No. 13). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, (2009). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/index.htm
Reinarz, A. (2005). Advising administrators’ tips for dealing with funding reductions. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/admintips.html.
Cite this article using APA style as: Zahorik, D. (2009, March). Utilizing a framework for peer advising program development. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]