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W. Kohle Paul, Georgia State University
J. Michael Kitchens
, Valdosta State University

Kohle Paul.jpgMichael Kitchens.jpgHistorically, advisor training opportunities at Valdosta State University were department initiated and informational in nature.   Typical topics included major requirements and departmental and university policies and procedures with little attention given to the conceptual, relational, technological, and personal components of advisor training and development (McClellan, 2007).  If advisors wanted to engage in holistic advisor development they had to attend state, regional, and/or national NACADA events.  However, cutbacks to the university’s travel budget limited the frequency of attendance and number of advisors who participated in such events each semester.   

Advising Needs Assessment 

In response to the lack of advisor development opportunities and a reduction in employee travel funds, the OASIS Center for Advising staff administered a seven-item advising needs assessment to elucidate advisors’ professional development needs and their interests in an advisor development program.  They emailed the needs assessment to every advisor on campus, of which 108 responded.  The results of the needs assessment included:

  • Fifty-three percent of advisors were interested in an advisor professional development program.
  • Advisors only wanted to commit 10-15 hours to complete the program.
  • Advisors wanted to complete the program in one to two semesters.
  • The two most frequently requested training topics were working with BANNER and academic transcripts (N = 95) and developmental advising (N = 92).
Master Advisor Series

As a result of the needs assessment the OASIS staff created the Master Advisor Series (MAS).  The MAS included eight professional development courses: two core courses and six elective courses.  The two core courses were required of every participant because they included topics that were the most frequently requested and the OASIS staff believed the course content demonstrated a holistic approach to advisor development (McClellan, 2007).  The course titles were Advising 101 and Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER

The Advising 101 course included the following topics:

  • The historical background of advising;
  • Advising’s influence on student retention, progression, and graduation;
  • The theory and practice of developmental advising; and
  • Utilizing campus resources and knowledge of university policies and procedures.

The Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER course included the following topics:

  • Understanding how to interpret transcript symbols and language,
  • Knowledge of common course substitutions and course substitution policies and procedures, and
  • Utilizing BANNER and Degree Works to enhance the advising process.

The elective courses were the next six most frequently requested topics.  Course topics included Career Advising, Advising the Probation Student, Advising the Millennial Generation, Advising Students with Disabilities, Advising International Students, and Advising the Adult Learner.  Participants had to complete four of the six elective courses to complete the MAS.  Course delivery methods included lecture, group discussion, common readings, case studies, advising videos, and role playing.  The OASIS staff partnered with varying campus departments to create and teach the courses.  For example, the Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER course included training facilitators from the Admissions Office, Registrar, and the OASIS Center for Advising.  Both core courses were taught in the fall 2011 term.  Two elective courses were taught in addition to the core courses in the fall 2011 term while the remaining four elective courses were taught in the spring 2012 term.  Each elective course was two hours in length and the core courses were two and a half hours in length, for a total of 13 hours of coursework to complete the MAS.  The length and completion time for the MAS were both within participants’ desired time commitment range. 

MAS Summative Evaluation Procedures 

The OASIS staff piloted the MAS in the fall term 2011.  They employed a pre-test/post-test control group research design to evaluate the effect of the MAS on advisors’ developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising.  They captured advisors’ developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising using Winston and Sandor’s (1984) Academic Advising Inventory (AAI).  The pilot-group of participants included 17 advisors from varying campus departments.  The OASIS staff collected pre-test data during the spring 2012 advising period (October 2011) from a purposeful sample of 113 students whose advisors started the MAS and from 143 students whose advisors did not participate in the MAS but were in the same departments as the MAS participants.  Of the original 17 participants, 11 completed the requirements for the MAS.  The OASIS staff was able to capture post-test data during the fall 2012 advising period (April 2012) from 64 of the original 256 students.  The post-test data included 36 students whose advisors did not participate in the MAS and 28 students whose advisors completed the MAS. 

Results 

An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed a significant effect of MAS completion on developmental advising post-test scores after controlling for developmental advising pre-test scores and number of visits with an advisor, F(1,59) = 8.11, p < .05, h2 = .12.  Advisors who completed the MAS were rated significantly higher (M = 80.15, SD = 2.75) than their colleagues (M = 69.64, SD = 2.38) on developmental advising behaviors.  ANCOVA also revealed there was a significant effect of MAS completion on post-test satisfaction with advising scores after controlling for pre-test satisfaction with advising scores and number of visits with an advisor, F(1,59) = 5.28, p < .05, h2  = .09.  Advisors who completed the MAS were rated significantly higher (M = 3.30, SD = .21) than their colleagues (M = 2.64, SD = .18) on advising satisfaction.    

Implications for Practice and Limitations

The practical implications for the current study are threefold.  First, prior research demonstrates an empirical link between student satisfaction with advising and developmental advising behaviors (Hale, Graham, and Johnson, 2009).  Further, enhancing student satisfaction with advising is imperative for first-year student retention and sophomore persistence to senior year (Soria, 2012; Schreiner, 2009).  The current study’s findings demonstrate that advisor professional development positively affects both advisors developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising.  Therefore, the more professional development advisors participate in the greater the chance they exhibit desirable advising behaviors, which in turn enhances students’ satisfaction with advising and their likelihood of persistence to graduation. 

Secondly, Noel-Levitz (2006) reported that 42% of colleges and universities do not have any formal advisor training and development initiatives with lack of internal funding as the most commonly cited reason.  However, 75% of advisors at those same colleges and universities desired to participate in some form of professional development.  In tough economic times, creating an advisor development program can be a good alternative to expensive conferences and professional development events, in particular, professional development opportunities that are methodologically holistic and desired by advisors.      

Lastly, academic and student affairs professionals collaborated to create and teach the MAS courses.  The collaborative nature of the MAS provided advisors an opportunity to network and build relationships with other advisors and professionals from other campus departments.  Academic and student affairs partnerships are imperative for student engagement and success (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, and  Whitt, 2005).  Therefore, advisors’ enhanced professional networks could have a positive impact on students’ college experience and ultimately their progression to graduation. 

The current study contained 64 cases from a purposeful sample for the final analysis.  Although significant results were found, future research should replicate this study and enhance the sample size to help control for extraneous variables and add credibility to the findings.  Future research should also further investigate the impact of advisor professional development on student retention and progression.  

Future of the MAS 

Administration of the MAS during the fall 2012 term followed the same format of course offerings as the fall 2011 term: two core courses and two electives.  However, unlike the spring 2012 term, both core courses were offered again in the spring 2013 term, along with two additional electives, so advisors would not have to wait another year to receive credit for the core courses.  Further, several additional MAS changes have been instituted for the upcoming 2013-2014 semesters. 

  • Advising 101 will be split into two separate courses (101 and 201).  Advising 101 will be centered on utilizing campus resources and knowledge of university policies and procedures.  Advising 201 will be centered on the historical background of advising, developmental advising, advising techniques, and appreciative advising.
  • Splitting Advising 101 into two courses will only add 30 minutes to the total time commitment to complete the MAS, which is still within the desired 10-15 hours.
  • Core courses will follow the same agenda as the 2012-2013 year.  However, four electives, instead of two, will be taught each term to allow for a wider variety of course selection as well as making the completion of the MAS attainable within one semester. 
  • The Advising International Students course will be split into two elective sections, one focusing on advising international students and another on advising students who are interested in study abroad opportunities.  Each course is one and a half hours.   
  • New elective course topics are being considered such as advising the online student, understanding financial aid, and advising student-athletes.

The MAS will continue to evolve as advisors’ professional development needs change.  The OASIS staff will continue to investigate the impact of the MAS on students’ advising experiences at VSU.  For additional information about the MAS contact Michael Kitchens at jmkitchens@valdosta.edu.      

W. Kohle Paul
Transition Advisor
University Advisement Center
Georgia State University
wpaul3@gsu.edu

J. Michael Kitchens
Academic Advisor
OASIS Center for Advising
Valdosta State University
jmkitchens@valdosta.edu

References

Hale, M. D., Graham, D. L., & Johnson, D. M. (2009). Are students more satisfied with their academic advising when there is congruence between current and preferred advising styles? College Student Journal, 43(2), 313-324.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. & Associates (2005). Student success in college:Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McClellan, J. L. (2007). Content components of advisor training: Revisited. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Training-Components.aspx

Noel-Levitz. (2006). 2006 Advising needs report: Summary of findings from national advising needs survey.  Retrieved from https://www.myu.umn.edu/public/ADVISING_pdf_1106.pdf

Schreiner, L. A. (2009). Linking student satisfaction and retention. Retrieved from https://www.noellevitz.com/documents/shared/Papers_and_Research/2009/LinkingStudentSatis0809.pdf 

Soria, K. M. (2012). Advising satisfaction: Implications for first-year students’ sense of belonging and retention. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, available at www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/.

Winston, R. B., & Sandor, J. A. (1984). The Academic Advising Inventory. Athens: Student Development Associates.

Additional NACADA Resources

Ford, S.S. (2007). The essential steps for developing the content of an effective advisor training and development program. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Training-Steps.aspx

Givans Voller, J. (2012). Advisor training and development: Why it matters and how to get started. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-training-and-development-Why-it-matters-and-how-to-get-started.aspx

Cite this article using APA style as: Paul, W.K., & Kitchens, J.M. (2013, December). The master advisor series at Valdosta State University: Development and evaluation. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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