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Jessica Newcomb, Texas A&M University

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During advisor training, I read many articles that positioned advisors as teachers, and as a former lecturer in the department of English, I instantly felt connected and encouraged by that comparison. Advising aligns with teaching on several points, using “instructional methodologies in a disciplined fashion, as is done in the classroom setting, to help students make and execute plans to achieve their educational and life goals” (Creamer, 2000, p. 19). My teaching style, and what has developed as my advising style, aims for a one-on-one mentor style relationship, seeks self-directedness for the student, and supports an organic interaction that requires participation from the student and me. I mention the familiar comparison only as a starting point that lays the foundation for the intersection between the two disciplines in which I am most interested: How the rejection of mastery and the focus on practice and revision in the writing process applies to academic advising.

Traditionally, teachers have instructed and modeled good writing, and students have practiced to achieve mastery (at least in the context of one classroom), but contemporary composition pedagogues and theorists now suggest that “modeling certain conventions will not ensure that writers learn all they need to know” (Kastman Breuch, 2003, p. 104). So, what is missing from a process that favors mastery? These writers might be effective imitators of accepted practice(s), but they do not know how to express themselves or move beyond a set structure or framework. Similarly, certain skills or information can be taught and understood in an advising session, but this acquisition does not guarantee that a student will be able to navigate the collegiate or professional world effectively. Instead, demonstrated learning and a useful application of that knowledge takes place in a series of moments as a student develops in the collegiate environment, and in order to respect all types of learning and knowing, advisors need to view the advising process as one full of revision at a pace that is influenced by a student’s unique background and learning style.

Advising is often described as a process by theorists, advisors, and writers like NACADA Past-President Nancy King, who stated in a NACADA Webinar that advising assists “students in a continual monitoring and evaluation of their educational progress” (King, 2006). An advisor could take this idea one step further by acknowledging that there are many processes happening simultaneously, i.e., revision, as discussions from previous meetings are questioned, supported, or altered. What results from this proposal is an increased emphasis on the communicative interaction between advisors and students and a reexamination of how progress is monitored while revision is taking place.

In the classroom, students compose essays in stages that include several drafts that are edited by peers and the instructor. Following steps enables students to see how the parts create and relate to the finished essay and requires writing with direction and purpose. When I look at these steps as an advisor, I see how they could occur on a smaller scale in one session, or how they may occur before, during, or over multiple sessions with one or more advisor(s). Here is a scenario that describes how revision in the writing process relates to the structure of advising:

  • Brainstorming ideas: A student has a problem or question and asks friends about their experiences. She first tries to find an answer (which hopefully is the correct answer) online. She may doubt the answers she receives or follow one that seems credible, only to find out that the information was incorrect or incomplete. Finally, she decides to speak with an academic advisor.
  • Shaping an introduction to support and present the thesis statement: The advisor and student talk about the student’s background and academic and/or career objectives to contextualize the problem or question.
  • Drafting/Revising a thesis statement: The advisor and student identify the main problem or question which could concern graduating, dropping a class, or learning more about a particular major.
  • Drafting/Revising topic sentences: The advisor and student identify sub-goals or additional problems that impact the student’s situation. The advisor might identify problems of which the student was not aware or prompt additional questions.
  • Drafting/Revising body paragraphs: The advisor and student compose a plan for action that could include consulting other departments or using campus resources. The advisor may call several advisors, employees, or faculty or consult multiple departmental Web sites before finding a definitive answer.
  • Shaping a conclusion to unify ideas and emphasize the thesis statement: The advisor and student compose a plan for follow-up which could involve staying in touch via email or another meeting, scheduling an appointment with an advisor in a different department, taking an inventory or interest tests, etc. These activities may prompt more questions and lead back to a previous step but will ultimately clarify problems for the student.
Questions are focused, ideas enlightened,and answers refined in each step. Although one or even a few advising sessions will not likely transform a developing student into a master of institutional regulations and departmental policies, the advising process can still be viewed as successful. Advising is most beneficial when mastery is not the goal and advisors acknowledge and support a process that revises how students approach challenges, gather and apply information, and assess goals and progress.

Jessica Newcomb
General Academic Programs
Texas A&M University
jessica@gap.tamu.edu

References

Creamer, D. G. (2000). Use of Theory in Academic Advising. In V. N. Gordon and W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. (pp. 18-34). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kastman Breuch, L. M. (2003). Post-process 'pedagogy': A philosophical exercise. In V. Villanueva (Ed.), Cross-talk in comp theory: A reader. (pp. 97-125). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

King, N. S. (September 26, 2006). Advising as Teaching. [NACADA Webinar 1]. 
Cite this article using APA style as: Newcomb, J. (2009, March). One more draft: How the writing process shapes the academic advising session. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]
Posted in: 2009 March 32:1

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