CUCA - Advising - A Unique Perspective


When might it be appropriate to use prescriptive advising versus developmental advising?

When thinking about the imposed either or adoption of prescriptive vs. developmental advising I wanted to better understand exactly what the relationship is. I found an interesting article by Marc Lowenstein from a 1999 edition of The Mentor titled, 'An Alternative to the Developmental Theory of Advising' ( Lowenstein raises and interesting point on how developmental is not the exact opposite of prescriptive as one is a style of delivery and the other, developmental, on the actual content being advised. Lowenstein goes on to suggest that perhaps the opposite of prescriptive is  collaborative.

I find this line of thinking interesting as an employee of a two-year community college that has prescriptive course scheduling and mapping (our students do not pick their courses - less a very small set of exceptions) and as a faculty member who was a former coordinator of a program with 1500 students. Reflecting on the structure of my teaching my classes start out in week 1 very prescriptive as I define the expectations of the course, the classroom learning environment and the standards of practice I expect students to achieve. Over the course of the next three weeks the paradigm will  morph into a collaborative learning environment driven by the rate at which students are developing and how they demonstrate application of knowledge. If I were to consider this my frame of reference for building engaging and sustaining relationships with students, I would then argue within the college environment the start and end of an academic term need to be prescriptive.

While 30% of our incoming class is direct entry, and with that comes certain similarities and differences, 60% of our population is non-traditional and in some ways now the traditional student. Students require and expect the college, through early stages of advising, to disseminate strategies on best-practices for success, connect them to faculty and identify the academic realities of studying in an applied, experiential environment heavily underpinned by technological drivers.   From this strong foundation and consistency of information, advisors could then begin building collaborative advising sessions centred on the key developmental advising content pieces including self-awareness and self-fulfillment

Lowenstein  M. (1999). An Alternative to the Developmental Theory of Advising. The Mentor. Retrieved January 31, 2016



What do you see as some of the similarities and differences between advising in the United States versus Canada?

Like others I took a look at Jo Stewart's article, 'Academic Advising in Canada: Is the Canadian Advising System Really Different from the American Advising System?' and found myself at the same place I often do... But what about Canadian colleges? It is here that I find myself also back at the first discussion question: prescriptive or developmental? Looking at the university comparison between the two countries the similarities are staggering when you remove the difference in language and credit counts as indicated by Stewart. University students are typically direct-entry, or easily enough placed into a 'special population' grouping with matching on-campus supports. Because of this similarity in population the academic portion of advising is very similar in both countries. Additionally the Canadian model looks so similar to the US models because the Canadian model is heavily emulated out of developments in the US and England fields of advising.

University students are engaged in much more self-directed academic pathway planning - moving in and out of a variety of majors and minors before ultimately setting on a pathway. This fluidness of their educational journey is the underlying reason for academic advisors. A beacon to students as they progress academically and socially through the 4-years of higher educations study.

Comparatively at Canadian Colleges a prescriptive curriculum and an older student body (average age 26 at my institution) changes the stage of life and motivation for education being sought by students. Fold into this an average program length of 2-years and you have a completely different paradigm on which advising needs to occur.  Ontario colleges, and a few others across Canada are now offering full four-year bachelor degrees with intense vocational focus in some of the most advancing fields in the labour market. These students tend to be much more in profile with a traditional university student. HOWEVER these students while not requiring academic centric advising do require intensive amounts of developmental focused advising and in a format perhaps more aligned to the work of the US University.

While I agree, thought at times believe there is reaching for similarities, that Stewart hits the key notes in her conclusions. Certainly influence of parents, the ROI of education, shortest path to completing and transfer processes between and across intuitions give common ground for an advising core. I do believe that the various lengths of study in a community college challenge institutions to develop hybrid methods that have core elements of the advising work - as outlined through NACADA - while at the same time recognizing that a college may need several styles and focuses of advising to reach the dynamic population these types of institutions attract.



What are some of the theoretical perspectives that you feel inform your work? 

Disclaimer: I am not an academic advisor thought at times I have through my seat as an Program Coordinator and as a manager of the Dual Credit program at our college provided guidance and advice, I would not begin to assert myself as such.

When thinking about which theoretical perspectives inform my work, I am often drawn to non-traditional theories which I can draw back to my student development experiences. Often I draw from game motivation theory, Belongingness theory, Consumer theory or in the case of this task... Theory of Experience by John Dewey

The premise of Dewey's theory is that experience arises from the interaction of two principles -- continuity and interaction. Meaning a student's current experience with advising, this can include seeking out advising for the first time, is a function of their previous advising experience (high school or another institution) and their current situation (their motivation to seek out advising). This framework would inform my work because it honors the students past while recognizing their motivations for seeking out the advisor. I see this model at play when I am sought by current and former students. By understanding the experience and how Dewey maps the development of experience I am able to move more authentically into a collaborative advising perspective from the work of Lowenstein. My work is driven by reflection and affording time for students I might be advising to reflect on the experience to ensure they have achieved what they need and that they can affirm they will seek me out again should they need more guidance is paramount to me.

Honoring the past experience to shape future experiences takes tremendous up-front time and is not always possible with large numbers of students to advise. I would need to assess this framework in application but it has worked so far where I can afford a student a half hour of my time.