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Advisor Training and Development

Authored By: Heidi Koring


Advisor training is the foundation of any advising program.  In Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2000), Margaret C. King, former NACADA president, recommends that advisor training should address three areas:

  • Conceptual: What concepts like developmental advising do advisors need to know?
  • Informational:   What do advisors need to know about in-house programs and policies.
  • Relational: What skills do advisors need to relate effectively with their advisees? (p. 293)

Yet even rudimentary advisor training is absent from many institutions.   In ACT's Fifth National Survey of Academic Advising (1984), Wesley Habley and Ricardo Morales reported that 'many institutions are providing a only minimum of training to those involved in advising.' (p. 4). Sufficient advisor training is not supplied for three simple reasons:   time, money, and lack of training for the trainers.   This overview will address ways to improve on-campus training despite these major stumbling blocks.


The most common form of advisor training is the single workshop that takes place during one day or part of a day.  Many institutions and advisors balk at spending more than a   minimal amount of time in advisor training activities. As a result, a trainer needs to make every minute count. The trainer should consider carefully what material really must be presented in face-to-face workshops and what could be presented in other   formats such as a print or electronic training manual, or a print or electronic advising newsletter. Often informational material can be provided to advisors using print or electronic media, thus leaving the workshop format for conceptual and relational training. This has the advantage of creating a more interactive workshop since conceptual and relational training lends itself to discussion, role play or case studies. Generally, implementing interactive advisor training is not only more effective than implementing a passive, lecture-base approach, it is enjoyed more by the participants. And after an enjoyable training experience, participants will be eager to attend subsequent training events and to recommend them to others.   If the trainer decides to present much of the informational material via print or electronic resources, participants should clearly understand that they are responsible for knowing that information. Providing a self-test to participants can be a reminder of the information that should be mastered.

Although ongoing training is extremely effective, time constraints can hinder advisors' regular attendance. Think outside the box when planning ongoing training opportunities. Effective interventions that supply continuing training include implementing an advisor-mentor system that pairs a more experienced advisor with a less experienced one, establishing an advisor list-serve or electronic newsletter. Holding a monthly brown-bag lunch or a monthly afternoon coffee break for discussion of advising issues can be an effective way to continue advisor training throughout the semester.

If lack of sufficient training funds is a stumbling block, then consider holding a training event co-sponsored by two campus groups. For instance, workshops on effective listening could be co-sponsored by academic advising and student development professionals for their joint staffs.   If there is more than one college or university in the area, the academic advising offices from these institutions can co-sponsor training events.   Also consider taking advantage of on-campus experts.  A faculty member from the Communication Studies Department can facilitate a workshop on building advisor-advisee relationships.   The coordinator for disabilities services can plan a program on advising disabled students, and minority affairs could co-sponsor a workshop training on cross-cultural communication issues. Is your faculty required to provide service to the university or the community in order to receive merit or to progress toward tenure at the institution? If so, faculty can present advising workshops that could help both presenter and advisors.

NACADA can provide faculty with opportunities for presenting and learning at the same time. Some faculty advisors may be able to use faculty development money to present at national or regional NACADA conferences, especially if the presentation is connected to their academic area. For instance, faculty members in psychology or sociology could present a session on resilience and at-risk students for a NACADA conference combining their knowledge of the academic discipline and their experience as advisors. Faculty who attend NACADA conferences generally report that they find the experience richly rewarding professionally and that they come away with greater knowledge of and appreciation for advising. Advisor trainers can benefit from NACADA resources as well. The advisor training video and the monograph, Advisor Training: Exemplary Practices in the Development of Advisor Skills (2003) can provide invaluable training resources. Participation with the NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission and its list-serve can help trainers connect across the association.

Last, but not least, use assessment to plan and to improve training events. Sending advisees a needs assessment before you plan the training event, will help the trainer focus on the areas where training is needed most. Assessing participants' satisfaction and the training event's effectiveness will help you improve your next event. Use several assessment modalities that will supply quantitative and qualitative results. A trainer is new to assessment can find helpful resources at the NACADA Clearinghouse and the NACADA Advising Assessment Commission web sites.

Authored by: Heidi Koring
Lynchburg College


Habley, W., & Morales, R. (1998). Current practices in academic advising: Final report on ACT's Fifth National Survey of Academic Advising. (National Academic Advising Association, Monograph No. 6). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

King, M. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In Gordon, V.N. & Habley, W.R., & Associates (Eds.),   Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (pp.289-97). San Francisco: Jossey Bass   

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Koring, H. (2005). Advisor Training and Development. Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

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