Academic Advising Resources


Faculty Advising Resources

Faculty Advising
Authored by: Cathy Kennemer and Bob Hurt

Students get advice on many different subjects from many different sources during their years in higher education.  One of the most important sources is the faculty advisor.  In this article, we present information designed to spark interest in faculty advising, to showcase its importance and to point out pervasive issues as points for discussion and / or research.  First, we discuss the importance of faculty advising; the second section of the article outlines characteristics of faculty advisors.  We conclude by presenting challenges faced by many faculty advisors.

Importance of Faculty Advising
Advising is a critical component of higher education. Faculty advisors are able to not only guide students through increasing knowledge and developing skill in their respective academic disciplines; but faculty advisors hold unique positions in which they are able to guide students in developing overall educational and career plans (Baker & Griffin, 2010; White & Schulenberg, 2012). Feghali, Zbib, & Hallal (2011) reported that retention of college students is influenced through the contact that is made between the student and influential authority figures such as the student’s academic advisor. In addition to simple contact between the advisor and student, Heisserer (2002) found that frequent interaction is necessary between the student and advisor in order for the student to develop a connection with the advisor and also the college or university.

Characteristics of Effective Advisors
First and foremost, effective faculty advising is attained when all involved (students, faculty, and administration) identify and understand their roles in the advising process (Creamer, 2000). Crockett (1987) stated that effective advising can be achieved when all parties assume and complete their individual responsibilities. Crockett further stated that in the effective advising relationship the advisor assumes the role of guide or facilitator.

Faculty advisors will follow different approaches to advising. Some faculty advisors are strictly disseminators of information (White & Schulenberg, 2012). Disseminating accurate information such as degree plans and institutional deadlines is important, especially early in the advising relationship (Baker & Griffin, 2010). Other faculty advisors assume the aforementioned role of guide, facilitator, or even mentor. Advisors should understand that the approaches to advising must be adapted to the advising situation and/or advisee. However, regardless of the approach taken to advising, effective advisors possess certain characteristics. Below are characteristics that have been determined by both students and faculty to be essential to effective academic advising:

  • Possess the ability to disseminate accurate information, to give appropriate guidance, and to be knowledgeable about university and degree requirements (Upcraft & Garner, 1989; Creamer, 2000; Dillon & Fisher, 2000; Harrison, 2009; Baker & Griffin, 2010).
  • Understand student developmental levels and be able to effectively guide students toward setting and reaching goals (Johnson & Morgan, 2005; Harrison, 2009)
  • Know how and when to effectively guide students to additional campus resources that are needed (Johnson & Morgan, 2005).
  • Develop relationships with the student (Upcraft & Gardner, 1989)
  • Show courtesy and respect toward the advisee (Hester, 2008)
  • Show interest in advisee’s academic program (Hester, 2008)
  • Exhibit approachability (Harrison, 2009) and be a good listener (Hester, 2008)

Challenges to the Faculty Advisor
At both four- and two-year institutions, faculty are commonly trained in their academic discipline—typically, a discipline that, at best, is tangentially related to advising.  Thus, even faculty who want to be good advisors face significant challenges in developing their advising skill set.  Broadly speaking, faculty experience at least three major challenges in advising:

  • the weight given to faculty advising in reappointment / promotion / tenure decisions
  • the solitary nature of faculty advising
  • the availability of training and development activities related to academic advising

We’ll examine each of those challenges in the remainder of this section.

Faculty advisors are expected to be student-centered; however, faculty advisors have significant responsibilities outside of advising that hold significant weight in the tenure and promotion process (Baker & Griffin, 2010). Therefore, faculty attitudes toward advising and therefore the quality of faculty advising can be impacted by the lack of reward for advising (Titley & Titley, 1982). The institution’s mission and/or administrative priorities for faculty determine the amount of emphasis placed on advising. Tenure track faculty are typically consumed with other responsibilities including teaching, scholarship, and service. In many cases, exceptional advising and out of classroom access to students is expected but has no real impact towards the tenure or promotion process.

To address the challenge of balancing advising with other responsibilities, faculty advisors should consider the following options:

  • Work with appropriate colleagues and campus administrators to make advising part of reappointment / promotion / tenure criteria.  As noted by Miller and Alberts (1994), “Advising is the intersection of the teaching / learning experience.” 
  • Integrate advising with research responsibilities.  Many of the pressing questions advisors have with respect to the task are amenable to both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  As pointed out by Aiken-Wisniewski et al. (2010), “Through. . .involvement in research, the advisor engages in the higher education mission of knowledge creation as well as gains a deeper understanding of student development and success.”

Like classroom teaching, faculty advising is often a solitary process, particularly for faculty who have completed the reappointment / promotion / tenure process.  Only rarely do faculty receive clear, direct feedback on their performance as an advisor.  As pointed out by McGillin, Ortgies-Young and Kem (2010):

Professionals need consistent performance feedback. . .whether advisors are measured against a standard or in comparison to their own earlier skills.  When professionals see how far they have come and how far they can still go, they can judge what additional learning opportunities will enable them to achieve their goals.

Receiving performance feedback is an essential part of the assessment process.  Without such feedback, often referred to as “closing the loop,” faculty advisors are unlikely to improve their skills.  Although the primary purpose of program assessment is not to evaluate individual advisors, a sound program assessment plan can be a launching pad for discussion of individual advisor praxis.  Indeed, “the root purpose of academic program assessment is straightforward:  to create the deliberate opportunity for dialogue about the extent to which students are achieving the expected outcomes established by the faculty in consultation with various constituent groups.”  (Hurt 2004; Palomba and Banta 1999)  Whatever form assessment data take for advising programs, stakeholders should meet to discuss them with a view toward improving advising practice.

Finally, faculty advisors are often challenged to locate and take advantage of professional development resources related to the field; most faculty take advantage of such opportunities in their disciplines. As “the leader within the global education community for the theory, delivery, application and advancement of academic advising to enhance student learning and development,” NACADA:  The Global Community for Academic Advising can play a primary role in providing such opportunities.  Some of those opportunities include:

  • National and regional conferences where advisors exchange ideas and learn best practices in advising.
  • Monographs focused on specific issues / topics in advising, such as Scholarly Inquiry in Academic Advising.
  • Pocket guides, such as A Faculty Guide to Academic Advising, that present essential concepts and practical ideas.
  • Live webinars, in which participants interact with advising experts in real time, and digital recordings of those webinars that can be accessed later. 

By taking advantage of NACADA’s plentiful resources, faculty advisors can both improve their advising skill set and create opportunities for dialogue with colleagues.

Faculty advisors play a critical role in promoting student success (Light, 2001).  In an era when higher education has been challenged philosophically, organizationally and financially, effective advising is more important than ever.  Higher education institutions of all stripes can contribute profoundly to student success by ensuring that faculty have the tools necessary to advise students effectively.

Annotated Bibliography


Aiken-Wisniewski, S.A., Smith, J.S. & Troxel, W.G. (2010).  Expanding research in academic advising:  Methodological strategies to engage advisors in research.  NACADA Journal, 30(1), 4-13.

Baker, V. L. & Griffin, K. A. (2010). Beyond mentoring and advising: Toward understanding the role of faculty “developers” in student success. About Campus (January-February). Wiley InterScience ( American College Personnel Association. DOI: 10.1002/abc.20002

Creamer, E. G., & Scott, D. W. (2000). Assessing individual advisor effectiveness. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds)., Academic Advising: A comprehensive handbook, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Crockett, D. S. (1987). Advising skills, techniques and resources: A compilation of materials related to the organization and delivery of advising services. Iowa City: ACT Corporation.

Dillon, R. K., & Fisher, B. J. (2000). Faculty as part of the advising equation: An inquiry into faculty viewpoints on advising. NACADA Journal, 20(1), 16-23.

Feghali, T., Zbib, I., & Hallal, S. (2011). A web-based decision support tool for academic advising. Educational Technology & Society, 14(1), 82.94.

Harrison, E. (2009). Faculty perceptions of academic advising. Nursing Education Perspectives, 30(4), 229-

Heisserer, D. L., & Parette, P. (2002). Advising at-risk students in college and university settings. College Student Journal, 36(1), 69-84.

Hester, E. J. (2008). Student evaluations of advising: Moving beyond the mean. 56(1), 35-38.

Hurt, B.  (2004).  Using the balanced-scorecard approach for program assessment of faculty advising.  NACADA Journal, 24(1 & 2), 124-127.

Johnson, E. J., & Morgan, B. L. (2005). Advice on advising: Improving a comprehensive university’s program. Teaching of Psychology, 32(1), 15-18.

Light, R.J.  (2001).  Making the Most of College:  Students Speak Their Minds.  Boston:  Harvard University Press.

McGillin, V., Ortgies-Young, T.S. & Kem, L. (2010).  Faculty advisor assessment and reward:  A hot topic for our institutions.  Academic Advising Today, 33(2), 5 & 19.

Miller, M., & Alberts B.  (1994).  Developmental advising:  Where teaching and learning intersect.  NACADA Journal, 14(2), 43-45.

"Our Vision." NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. National Academic Advising Association, 2013. Web. 16 June 2013.

Palomba, C.A., & Banta, T.W.  (1999).  Assessment essentials:  Planning, implementing and improving assessment in higher education.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

Smith, C. L., & Allen, J. M. (2006). Essential functions of academic advising: What students want and get. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 54-66.

Titley, R. W., & Titley, B. S. (1982). Academic advising: The neglected dimension in designs for undergraduate education. Teaching of Psychology, 9, 45-49.

Upcraft, M. L., & Gardner, J. N. (1989). The freshman year experience: Helping students survive and succeed in college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

White, E., & Schulenberg, J. (January-February, 2012). Academic advising – A focus on learning. About Campus. Wiley Online Library: American College Personnel Association & Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10:1002/abc.20082

Cite this using APA style as:

Kennemer, C. & Hurt, B. (2013). Faculty advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

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