See also Training and Development Resources
The Essential Steps for Developing the Content of an
Effective Advisor Training and Development Program
by Susan Ford
Just as professional development is essential for faculty at a university, the need for professional development for advisors is also critical as a vehicle for advisors to remain current with new information, skills and best practices in the field of advising (Huggett, 2000). King (2000) states that the primary goal of an advisor training program is “to increase the effectiveness of advising services provided to students, thus increasing student satisfaction and persistence” (p. 290). Planning is essential for the success of effective advisor development programs. This process should begin with one person in charge, perhaps a senior faculty member who is also a seasoned advisor, but should utilize a team approach in planning the training. Stakeholders in the advising program should be from all areas of campus: faculty, student services, academic affairs, counselors and staff.
Once the team has been established, Nutt (2003) recommends identifying the audience, the content of the training and the delivery mode of the program. King (2000) recommends the following six steps in creating and implementing an advisor training program:
Step 1: Review the Institutional Mission
The key to developing a strong connection between advising and the instructional mission is to review the instructional mission statement. Shared goals and objectives such as developing life-long learning, establishing academic and career goals, developing critical decision making skills and meeting the needs of the whole student should be stated in both the mission statement of academic advising and the institutional mission statement. (King, 2000). Both mission statements form the foundation on which the advising program will be built and will be critical in measuring achievement of the program’s goals. A link to the institutional mission statement is also important in gathering institutional and administrative support for the advising program.
Step 2: Identify needs to be address in the training program.
A needs assessment should be performed prior to the establishment of a training program. Input is needed from senior advisors and new advisors to identify the issues most important to them so these issues will be included in the training program. Input for student assessment of advising is also recommended (King, 2000).
Step 3: Establish goals and objectives:
Goals and objectives of the training program should be tied into the advising mission statement. Each objective should be written so that it is “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and tangible” (King, 2000, p. 292). When an objective follows these guidelines, the outcomes of the training program and its effectiveness can be measured. This will be important for the on-going evaluation of the training program.
Step 4: Select appropriate content, strategies and methods
In developing the content of an advisor training program, a great deal of research and literature support use of three essential components: conceptual, informational and relational. Without the use of all three, the quality of the advising program is missing essential elements needed for successful advising. McClellan (2007) states that skills in all three areas should be received through formal training.
The conceptual component addresses what advisors need to understand including the definition of advising, student development theories, the relationship of advising to retention, and the rights and responsibilities of both advisors and students throughout the advising process. Within this component, Higginson (2000) suggests including topics about the student body such as gender and ethnic backgrounds as well as understanding the nature of the students’ educational, financial and personal needs. In addition, topics should include how the role of advising fits within the overall structure of the institution.
The Informational component contains the “meat” of the advising process and addresses what advisors need to know about institutional policies, academic programs, and campus resources. Since the advisor represents the university, it is imperative that he or she be given the latest information about the policies of the institution so that it can be passed on correctly to the student. Higginson (2000) points out that training topics in this area might include information about the academic integrity policy of the institution, the degree requirements of major programs, accommodations for students with disabilities, FERPA requirements, honors program requirements, campus services such as tutoring and co-curricular opportunities for students. In addition, students will turn to the advisor with physical registration questions, so advisors must be knowledgeable about the use of technology such as online registration and computerized degree audits. Nutt (2003) cautions that while the informational component is essential and must be accurate, trainers should not focus the entire training program on this component while leaving out the other two important components, yet Habley (2004) reports that the 2003 ACT sixth national advising survey indicates that advisor training programs continue to make the informational components their primary focus of training. Perhaps, one explanation for the continued emphasis on the information is that the delivery of the institution’s latest information about policy and procedures is what the faculty “expect” from the training. However, an intentional effort must be placed on including the third component, relational skills, in order to make the training program, and the advising program as a whole, balanced.
The relational component addresses the skills an advisor needs to communicate the essential information from the other two components to the student. The training in this component involves areas such as “relationship building, communication skills, questioning skills and mentoring skills” (Drake, 2007). In theory, this is perhaps the most essential component of the three components since it seeks to address the actual processes by which the information to a student is delivered. However, the results of the ACT sixth national advising survey indicate that institutions continue to spend very little time training advisors in relational skills (Habley, 2004). The reality is that the relational component is often the hardest to address. Higginson (2000) suggests topics in this component include greeting students openly, developing active listening skills, using open-ended questions and other effective interviewing skills as well as having effective decision-making and referral skills. In addition, advisors must be accessible to students by being available to meet students at times which fit the student’s schedule, not just the advisor’s schedule. Nutt (2003) recognizes that an added benefit for faculty advisors is that relational skills can also be utilized in the classroom to strengthen teaching skills.
In addition to the first three essential components of an advisor training program, McClellan (2007) suggests expanding the model to include two other components: the technology and the personal component. Although some technology issues may be discussed within the informational sessions, McClellan states that the understanding of technology is essential in the delivery of the information within the advising session. Furthermore, he states the “training for this component requires a unique balance of information dissemination and hands-on learning.” Finally he points to the need for a personal component to address the advisor’s own need for “personal understanding, maintenance and development.” Higginson (2000) also recommends the need for an advisor to address his own questions, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs as they relate to advising as “advisor self-knowledge” (p. 304)
As trainers consider how to deliver the content of the advisor training program, the audience and their needs must be considered (King, 2000; Nutt, 2003) Faculty advisors tend to know program specifics, but are not necessarily current on development theories, the retention link to advising, the importance of strong communication skills, the need to build a relationship with advisee, and the strong tie with career advising. In addition, some faculty may consider advising to be one of his or her many assigned duties as a faculty member, and view it as an information-only task, so it is important for the training program to provide evidence about the relationship between advising and student persistence and retention.
Nutt (2003) also points out that the audience will also affect instructional techniques and delivery methods, whether they are external speakers, advisor panels, case studies, brainstorming sessions or small group discussions. The use of learning strategies for adult learners which appeal to varied learning styles should be incorporated into the training. The most popular delivery method for advisor training remains the one-day workshop (Habley, 2004), while others suggest annual retreats before fall semester, a series of shorter workshops, online training, listservs, a mentoring system and brown bag lunches on various advising topics (Drake, 2007; Nutt, 2003; Koring, 2005).
Step 5: Implementing the Program
Gaining administrative support is critical to implementing the program and having successful attendance at the training sessions. King (2000) recommends getting the President or Dean to send a letter “inviting” faculty to attend. In addition, the training program needs to be well publicized and utilize incentives such as free food to encourage attendance and participation. Scheduling the training at convenient times for faculty and professional staff is essential for strong attendance. Better yet, offering the training at different times and days is helpful for accommodating the needs of faculty to work around teaching times and other commitments. A follow up thank you letter stresses the importance of each participant’s attendance.
Step 6: Evaluating the Program
The actual evaluation process should be a part of the initial planning of the training program since it must be tied directly to measuring the stated goals and objectives of the program. Drake (2007) points out that assessment allows advising administrators and other stakeholders of the advising program to respond to the call for accountability, to understand “how and what” students are gaining from advising and to make needed adjustments to the program to improve student learning (p. 18). An added benefit is that it allows faculty advisors to discuss the critical elements of academic advising and to build “consensus” about the importance of advising in relation to student progress.
Evaluation tools can be developed for session topics as well as for the entire training program. Drake (2007) outlines the process of assessment as having six steps: identifying objectives, designing assessment of those objectives, gathering evidence related to meeting the objectives, interpreting the evidence, evaluating the data and reporting to stakeholders and making decisions affecting training , planning and budgeting” (p. 19) Overall, the evaluation component should communicate to advising administrators whether the program had a direct effective on improved advisor behaviors, attitudes and issues identified at the onset of the training (King, 2000). Koring (2005) recommends the use of several types of assessment instruments in order to obtain both quantitative and qualitative results. Types of instruments can include surveys, focus groups, student evaluations of faculty advisors, self-evaluations and supervisor evaluations.The results of the evaluations should be compiled and reported to the key stakeholders and administration, along with any changes to the advising program based on the results.
Finally, incorporating the essential topics contained in the training program within an advisor handbook is the "cornerstone of a well-developed and implemented academic advising program" (Ford, 2003). Whether the handbook is online or bound in a hard copy, it allows advisors the opportunity to examine topics as they occur in advising situations, providing a continued practical application of the elements covered during advisor training.
Drake, J. (2007). Components of a successful faculty advising program. NACADA Pocket Guide Webinar Series PG05 adapted from NACADA Webinar broadcast February, 2007.
Ford, J. L. (2003). Producing a comprehensive academic advising handbook for facultyutilization. RetrievedJuly 16, 2007from theNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising ResourcesWeb site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/createhandbook.htm
Habley, W. R. (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT sixthnational survey.Manhattan,KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Higginson, L. C. (2000). A frame work for training program content revisited. In V. N. Gordon & Habley, W. R. (Eds.).. Academic advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 298-306. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/Clearinghouse/documents/2000-Higginson-Informational-Components.pdf
Huggett, K. (2000). Professional development in an uncertain professions: Finding a place for academic and career advisors. NACADA Journal 20 (2). 46-51.
King, N. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In V. N. Gordon &W.R. Habley, et al. Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 289-297.
Koring, H. (2005). Advisor training and development. Retrieved July 16, 2007 from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/adv_training.htm
McClellan, J. (2007). Content components for advisor training: Revisited. Retrieved July 16, 2007 from theNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising ResourcesWeb site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Training-Revisited.htm
Nutt, C. (2003). Creating advisor-training and development programs. ( NACADA Monograph No 9) . Manhattan , KS: National Academic Advising Association. 9-11.
Cite this using APA style as:
Ford, S.S. (2007). The Essential Steps for Developing the Content of an Effective Advisor Training and Development Program. Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/AdvTrng-Steps.htm