Book by Hemwall, Martha K. and Trachte, Kent C
Review by Karey Sabol
Former Academic Advisor  
Southern Oregon University

Advising and Learning: Academic Advising from the Perspective of Small Colleges and Universities is a collection of essays about the challenges that advisors face and the unique resources that small institutions have for addressing them. The authors are clear, however, that more important than size is the creation of an advising system that is learning-centered.  The institutions explored in the monograph are mostly small, private, liberal arts colleges, but advisors from all types of institutions can find wisdom here. Maura Reynold’s statement, that “it’s easy to get so caught up in the details of advising that the main thing slips out of view”, (pg. 21), is something that all advising programs are guilty of from time to time.  In that vein, this monograph offers good reminders for all of us.

The book’s authors describe their philosophy of advising from a learning paradigm, rather than from a student development paradigm. However, for practitioners of developmental advising, this distinction is merely semantic. Learning is development.  What is developmental advising if it does not focus on the development of student learning?  Still, all of us can agree on the centrality of student learning, and the monograph offers some key concepts along these lines that advisors at all types of institutions should use.  

First, learning-centered advising arises from specific student-learning outcomes (Hemwall & Trachte, pg. 9).  Just as curricular goals are identified for classroom learning, advisors, as teachers, must clearly articulate the learning goals they hope students will achieve as a result of the advising relationship. Second, learning-centered advising attempts to understand the learner.  It is true that “the advisor who takes the time to assess the student’s academic preparation, coping skills, and risk factors is best places to advise the student on the most appropriate first courses”, (McGillin, pg. 51), as well as many other academic decisions and issues.  Third, learning-centered advising “raises more questions than it provides answers,” (Reynolds, pg. 21).  Hemwall and Trachte (pg. 15) advocate asking the kinds of questions that encourage students to wrestle with abstractions like civic responsibility which require a high level of reflective judgment. Robert Gross (pg. 112) argues that an appropriate level of challenge will cause all students to experience some academic difficulty, but is necessary for academic growth.  Finally, learning-centered advising requires students to reflect on their relationship to their education.  “Without the cohesion of a strong curriculum and people (including advisors and directors of advising programs) who can articulate clearly the purpose of the curriculum, students may graduate believing that they have completed a series of unconnected courses, marked by checks on an arbitrarily mandated list, without being aware that they also have acquired skills (and marketable ones, at that) that can foster self-guided learning,” (Reynolds, pg. 23).

Part Two of the book uses the learning-centered strategies from the first part of the book to highlight institutions that have applied them to specific student populations, programs and situations, including faculty support for students with disabilities at Lawrence University, advisement of underrepresented students at Grinnell College and a good application of advising theory and research as part of Beloit College’s Sophomore Year Program.  

Though this monograph was written for a limited population, advisors everywhere can find in it helpful reminders about what Reynolds referred to as the “main thing” in advising.  

Advising and Learning: Academic Advising from the Perspective of Small Colleges and Universities. (2003). Book by Hemwall, Martha K. and Trachte, Kent C., editors. Review by Karey Sabol. Manhattan, KS: NACADA. 132 pp. $40.00. M08
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