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Voices of the Global Community


Sarah A. Forbes, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Sarah Forbes.jpgEven though academic advising has been around for centuries, a number of academic advisors lack training for specific administrative roles in this field, such as creating or revising an entire program. To fill this gap, NACADA has compiled a myriad of resources to ensure quality advising programs. However, absorbing these resources can be a daunting task as there is a plethora of foundational knowledge to learn, along with jargon specific to the field. Questions such as, “Do theories matter in developing an academic program?” or “Is ‘developmental’ a framework or an approach?” arise and can elicit different answers depending on the author. At the end of the day, it is imperative that administrators understanding how all of the component pieces fit together. Currently, no graphic organizer exists, which spurred the development of this image (see Figure 1). This graphic organizer provides a global perspective which can give direction for seeking out additional information and making decisions. 

Figure 1
Graphic Organizer for Advising Frameworks, Structures, and Approaches


Selecting a Framework

The first step to creating or revising an academic advising program is to determine the framework: prescriptive, developmental, or educative. While these are represented as discrete ideas, elements of each framework will surface during the course of academic advising. Selecting a framework equates to identifying the overarching goal of the advising program. The initial impetus for academic advising arose in the late 1800s with the introduction of elective courses into the higher education curriculum (Kuhn, 2008). Students needed guidance on which elective courses to take, which came to be known as prescriptive advising. Students were expected to follow the advice given by the advisor, similar to the relationship between a doctor and a patient (Crookston, 1994). The ultimate goal was compliance, given that the advisor was more knowledgeable on such subjects.

With the rise of developmental theories in 1960s and 1970s, academic advising shifted to a developmental framework with the goal of whole person development (e.g., decision making, critical thinking) rather than merely compliance (Crookston, 1994). Hagen and Jordan (2008) placed these theories into three categories:  psychosocial, cognitive-development, and personal preference or type. Psychosocial theories “look at different periods or stages in people’s lives and the issues faced during these stages . . . [emphasizing] developmental tasks, transitions, and identify formation” (Hagen & Jordan, 2008, p. 20), as seen in Erikson’s (1963) eight stages of development and Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) seven vectors of development. Cognitive-development theories focus on “how individuals perceive and interpret their life experiences” (Hagan & Jordan, 2008, p. 23), as seen in Kohlberg’s (1977) theory of moral development and Perry’s (1970) nine positions. Personal preference or type theories “focus on differences that are more preferential, on personality differences, and on how students approach their learning environment as well as the world at large” (Hagan & Jordan, 2008, p. 26), as seen in Kolb’s (1984) four learning styles and Jung’s (1960) theory of personality types. This framework elevates the role of the academic advisor beyond a signatory. Institutions have begun to reframe this idea into holistic advising, acknowledging that “advisors cannot look at students through a purely academic lens, but rather must regard them as a whole person” (Kardash, 2020).

Within the last two decades, Hemwall and Trachte (1999, 2005) and Lowenstein (1999, 2005, 2014) expanded on the idea of developmental advising to align more closely with the core mission of higher education. As theories of student learning emerged, views of academic advising shifted towards advising as an extension of the classroom, an opportunity to facilitate student learning. Melander (2005) further developed the advising-as-teaching approach into advising-as-educating. Theories supporting this framework include Gardner’s (1999) multiple intelligences and Baxter Magolda’s (1999) self-authorship. More recently, Lowenstein (2014) proposed the idea of integrative advising in which advisors guide students to “make meaning out of their education as a whole” (para. 54). While holistic personal development has not been abandoned, it has been refocused. 

Selecting a Structure

Once a framework has been established, advising administrators will need to determine the structure of the program. The structure delineates the parties responsible for providing academic advising. While there are many options to consider, both traditional and emerging, many refer to Habley’s (1983) seven structures to get a sense of those possibilities, which include faculty-only, supplemental, split, dual, total intake, satellite, and self-contained. In the faculty-only model, all incoming students are assigned to a faculty member who has sole responsibility for academic advising. The supplementary model continues to assign all students to a faculty academic advisor but makes provision for an advising office that supports the efforts of the faculty. In the split model, the advising office advises undecided students or underprepared students, while faculty advise the rest of the students. In the dual model, the advising office advises students on their general education requirements, policies, and procedures, with faculty advising on requirements in their major. With the total intake model, incoming students are advised in the advising office until a certain threshold has been met (either in time, requirements, etc.). In the satellite model, each academic department would create an advising office that would advise all students in that department. In the self-contained model, an advising office would be the primary source of academic advising. In the most recent survey of academic advising practices (Carlstrom & Miller, 2011), NACADA pared this list down to self-contained, faculty only, shared supplementary, shared split, and total intake. 

Selecting an Approach

Once the framework and structure are selected, a determination must be made as to which approaches are appropriate for the student population and campus culture. Though not required, it is common for an institution to select more than one approach as they are not mutually exclusive. These approaches focus more on what happens during the time an advisor meets with an advisee. There are nine academic advising approaches most frequently utilized by the NACADA community: advising as teaching, learning-centered advising, developmental advising, motivational interviewing, appreciative advising, strengths-based advising, self-authorship, proactive advising, and advising as coaching (Drake et al., 2013). These approaches are well-developed in theory and practice.

The advisor as teacher must “act as a facilitator of learning, have knowledge of academic and cocurricular resources, and communicate to students in a way that both encourages their self-actualization and demonstrates sincere concern for them” (Drake, 2013, p. 26). Learning-centered advising takes advising as teaching to the next level by focusing on those good practices that facilitate student learning, such as getting students involved in the process, facilitating student motivation, and student self-reflection (Reynolds, 2013). With developmental academic advising, the advisor “accept[s] the student on a three-dimensional continuum [academic, personal, career] and facilitate[s] growth in each one through the coordination of a variety of experiences” (Grites, 2013, p. 45).

Academic advisors leverage motivational interviewing “to assist students in developing motivation to make a choice or to change a behavior” (Hughey & Pettay, 2013, p. 67). Appreciative advising is “the intentional and collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potentials” (Bloom et al., 2013, p. 83). Within a strengths-based advising approach, advisors “assess the talents and personal assets that students bring into the college environment and work with them to develop those competencies into strengths through gained knowledge and skills” (Schreiner, 2013, p. 105).

Utilizing self-authorship, advisees undergo a “shift from less dependence on an authority to an intrinsic understanding of self that guides decision making” (Schulenberg, 2013, p. 121). Proactive advising, according to Varney (2013), “involves intentional interactions with students before a negative situation cannot be ameliorated” (p. 140). Advisors in the advising as coaching approach “focus on promoting the growth, learning, and development of their clients largely through one-on-one inquiry-based processes grounded in facilitated decision making and accountability” (McClellan, 2013, p 159). 

In addition, there are a number of emerging approaches to academic advising. For example, a Socratic approach emphasizes critical thinking (Spence & Scobie, 2013); a hermeneutic approach emphasizes interpretation for personal significance (Champlin-Scharff & Hagen, 2013); and a narrative approach emphasizes stories (Hagen, 2007, 2018).


Having a global orientation to the components of academic advising will facilitate the creation or revision of an advising program. From this overview, questions can be raised and details explored.  Further, knowing the components of your institution’s academic advising program will facilitate advisor training and development. When participating in NACADA events, look for sessions that talk about a specific approach or leverage the same structure as your institution. In addition, leverage this new jargon when doing a literature search or engaging in discussions with other advising professionals. This is where strategies and best practices will begin to emerge. 

Sarah A. Forbes, Ph.D.
Director of Student Academic Success
Academic Affairs
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1999). Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship: Constructive-developmental pedagogy. Vanderbilt University Press.

Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2013). Appreciative advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 83–99). Jossey-Bass.

Carlstrom, A. H., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). 2011 NACADA national survey of academic advising (Monograph No. 25). NACADA: National Academic Advising Association. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/2011-NACADA-National-Survey.aspx

Champlin-Scharff, S., & Hagen, P. L. (2013). Understanding and interpretation. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 121–136). Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. K. (2013). Advising as teaching and the advisor as teacher in theory and in practice. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 17–32). Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Academic advising approaches. Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity. Jossey-Bass.

Crookston, B. B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 5–9. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Narrative-Theory-and-Academic-Advising.aspx

Hagen, P. L. (2018). The power of story: Narrative theory in academic advising (J. Givans Voller, Ed.). NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Hagen, P. L., & Jordan, P. (2008). Theoretical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 17–35). Jossey-Bass.

Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (1999). Learning at the core: Toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 5–11. www.nacadajournal.org.

<p>Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. <em>NACADA Journal, 25</em>(2), 74–83. <a data-cke-saved-href=" www.nacadajournal.org="" rel=”noopener” rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Holistic-Advising.aspx.

Kohlberg, L. (1977).  Moral development: A review of the theory. Theory into Practice, 16(2), 53-59.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice Hall.

Kuhn, T. L. (2008). Historical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 3–16). Jossey-Bass.

Lowenstein, M. (1999). An alternative to the developmental theory of advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 1(1999). https://journals.psu.edu/mentor/article/view/61758/61402

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal 25(2), 65–73.

Posted in: 2021 March 44:1


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