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Mitchell, K. L. (2019). Experience Inquiry: 5 powerful strategies, 50 practical experiences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Review by Amber Huff, IUPUI and Ivy Tech Community College, adepree@iupui.edu

Looking for a hands-on book that provides you space within the pages to reflect on your current practices and experiences? Then grab your favorite pen, and maybe a colleague or two, and get ready to dive into Mitchell’s Experience Inquiry: 5 powerful strategies, 50 practical experiences. A majority of the practical experiences are questions designed to promote thinking, reflection, and encourage observation. Forty of the fifty practical experiences are linked with one of the five powerful inquiry strategies which serve as the overall themes of the text.

Rather than tell the reader what inquiry is and is not, Mitchell (2019) “…invite[s] you to discover it for yourself” (p. 10). This book is “…low on word count and high on thinking space” providing the reader an opportunity to reflect on fifty experiences and assess their personal practices (Mitchell, 2019, p. 10). In advising, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day responsibilities and forget to reflect on what you are doing and why you are doing it. Reflection can also seem tedious. Because the practical experience questions in the book have been designed to allow structured space to jot down thoughts on a focused question, the process of reflection is inviting and meant for growth instead of shaming.

The author encourages readers to work with others as they journey through the fifty experiences. Establishing relationships and facilitating discussion are very important in advising and having a text like this that encourages people to talk with others is a distinguishable feature. Additionally, the author encourages observation of a colleague or fellow advisor in their natural work setting. This can be a powerful, eye opening experience to see how others interact and communicate with similar student groups and permits reflection, growth, and potential formation of future goals for all parties involved.

As an academic advisor who does not currently teach a course, several of the practical experiences in this book have parallels with coaching strategies which are very popular in advising today. For example, experience twenty-nine: What questions are you asking? identifies six question types students may ask. Probing, clarifying, and confirming are three question types used in coaching conversations. In addition, the message in experience thirty is very similar to the why-am-I-talking (WAIT) acronym used in coaching. I found the pie chart in this experience to be a helpful visual of understanding who is doing the talking in an advising appointment. These experiences draw parallels to the relational component of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising’s (2017a) competency R4 of promoting effective conduct during advising appointments.

Several of the experiences in the text are for individuals who teach which may not make this an obvious first choice text for advisors who do not. However, there are many takeaways advisors can benefit from such as engaging in reflection and assessment to develop one’s personal practice and exploring best practices in working with groups of students. The text also reminds the reader that, just like teachers, advisors can also teach, engage, encourage, and coach students as well as assess their own personal practices within the profession. As defined in NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising’s (2017b) Core Values of Academic Advising, committing to scholarship and assessment are a few of the components of the commitment core value advisors should assume in their practice. Those, like me, who are excited to begin teaching for the first time should keep this book close and use the strategies and exploration experiences to guide your practice.

References:

Mitchell, K. L. (2019). Experience Inquiry: 5 powerful strategies, 50 practical experiences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017b). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

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