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Voices of the Global Community

Theresa Hitchcock, Administrators’ Institute Scholarship Recipient

TheresaHitchcock.jpgAs an active NACADA member, I subscribe to the concept of Advising as Teaching. I attend sessions at the Annual Conference on how to teach students through the advising process.  I read articles and attend webinars on effective Advising as Teaching strategies.  I present sessions at local and regional professional development events focused on my role as an educator.  I seek out opportunities to implement Advising as Teaching best practices in my Advising Center on a daily basis.  In all of these sessions, articles, and professional development opportunities, the focus is on the advisor’s role as a teacher to the student.  However, my recent experience at the NACADA Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute showed me that advising is not just teaching students, but it is also about teaching and learning from fellow advisors.

At the Administrators’ Institute (AI), I saw Advising as Teaching from the student’s perspective.  I want to share a little of my learning with the NACADA membership as a reminder that advisors are not just student educators but advisor educators as well.  I will focus on three types of teaching methods I experienced at the Institute and how these methods facilitated my learning.  The three are: lectures, group discussions, and individual meetings.  I will explore what I learned about each method and how I will use that method in my advising practices. 

Lectures can be very formal and impersonal, but not at the NACADA AI.  The faculty at the Institute presented advising topics that were both timely and pertinent to our work as advising administrators.  Each of the faculty members had a unique style of presenting that was successful in engaging over 100 people at a time.   Some of the faculty used humor to get us involved, while other faculty members provided thoughtful questions that required us to put the theory into context.  The faculty engaged the group in discussion by asking individuals questions, and utilizing role play and small group discussion.  Not only were they teaching advising topics, but they were also modeling Advising as Teaching.  I learned through these sessions that I do not have to be afraid of large lecture halls or group advising sessions.  I can integrate fun, interactive activities into this format to serve a large group of students or professionals.  I am often hesitant to use lectures in my advising work because I worry about losing the personal interaction with students.   The AI lectures gave me confidence to integrate lectures back into my advising portfolio.  The faculty taught me to trust my Advising as Teaching skills in the lecture format by incorporating interactive activities into these large group sessions.

Group discussion is one of my favorite ways to learn, and the NACADA AI was no exception.  The sessions were in-depth.  We met twice a day with our 15-member working group.   The sessions were informal and intense; we listened to the group members’ concerns, offered suggestions, and dissected possible ways to take action. The interactions with my peers were frequent and thoughtful.  I enjoyed the opportunity to work in the small group for three days exploring our interests, issues, and ideas.  Mark Taylor from the University of Kentucky facilitated our small group seminar, and he guided us through the action plan process.  These small, intimate sessions provided me an opportunity to get and give peer feedback.  The professional conversations were not limited to the formal group sessions; they spilled over into meals, sightseeing tours, and hotel lobby conversations.  The relationships I built during those group sessions were not limited to the Institute, either.  Since I returned to campus, I have continued many of those relationships through phone, email, and in-person conversations. 

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In addition to the immediate knowledge I gaiined through the group work, I also learned to better facilitate group work in advising.  One of the important aspects of effective group work is to bring together individuals with similar interests.  This strategic group formation allowed all of us to give and get feedback from people with similar backgrounds.  They understood our circumstances and knew what the limitations where.  In using group work in advising, it is very important to create groups that all of the participants find valuable and informative.  I also learned the art of the facilitator from Mark Taylor.  Mark provided the group with structure each session, but then let the group loose to develop within that structure.  As a group facilitator for advising, I want to provide the structure for the sessions, but also allow time for the participants to interact and discuss the topics with their peers.  Finally, I want to incorporate the peer interaction from the AI group sessions into advising.     

Individual meetings with the AI faculty were a rewarding aspect of the Institute, but also one that made me nervous. I always tell my students to visit their faculty during their office hours, but I know that many of them never talk with their faculty outside of class.  I tell my students how important that individual meeting is to their success in the course, but I never realized how far removed I was from the role of the student until the AI.  As I waited for my turn to meet with Jennifer Joslin (Past NACADA President!), I struggled to understand why someone so talented and successful as Jennifer would want to meet with me.  I wondered if my topic was too simple, or if I knew enough about advising to carry on a good conversation.  I worried that I would sound too needy or sound like an impostor to the advising profession.   I quickly realized in our session that she wanted to help me achieve my goals for the AI.  I also realized that she is a person, and she wanted to talk to me.  She provided me with solid suggestions and feedback based on my needs, and I don’t think I made a fool of myself in the session.  As I left my individual session with Jennifer, I realized that students may find going to see their advisor as intimidating.  It is a new experience, and even though I want to help students achieve their academic goals, the student may not know that until the meeting occurs.  As a result, I am looking into ways to make the individual appointments less intimidating for students. 

As these three teaching methods illustrate, Advising as Teaching is not just limited to our students.  As an advising professional, I am learning from NACADA and its members every day.  The NACADA Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute gave me a formal setting to learn new concepts and theories in advising administration.  I also learned that many of the teaching methods used at the Institute could inform my practices in advising.  Finally, I learned that when we have good teachers, we want to follow their examples.  I look forward to the opportunity to participate as a faculty member at the NACADA Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute in future years and give back to an organization and group of people who have given so much to me professionally and personally.   

Theresa Hitchcock
Director of Advising and Resource Center
Pott College of Science, Engineering and Education
University of Southern Indiana
tlhitchcoc@usi.edu

Cite this article using APA style as: Hitchcock, T. (2013, September). Advising as teaching for advisors. Academic Advising Today, 36(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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