Book Reviews

Book by Gordon, V. N., Habley, W. R., & Grites, T. J.
Review Jen Hazel
Owens Community College

Vast changes in education over the last 3 years due to the increased accessibility of technology have left students wanting and expecting advisors to communicate in their high tech world.  E-mail, which was all the rage a very short time ago, is “out,” and text messaging and Facebook are “in.”  In the second edition of Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, a necessity for anyone involved either directly or indirectly with advising (even  those who already own the first edition), Gordon, Habley, and Grites examine the technology explosion. They point out that while this trend causes concern for some who see text messaging, Facebook, and many other fast modes of communication as depersonalizing connections with students, it excites many who see technology as a means to increase the frequency of contact such that they can build stronger and more lasting connections with students (p. x).

Those who cherish the first edition will be glad to see that the best parts are included in the second edition: the chapters that discuss the diversity of students and their various personal, academic, and career needs. However, these return chapters have been considerably revamped to acknowledge today’s students and their concerns.  The second edition features new authors who offer fresh spins on old concepts and provide innovative approaches to reflect education today.

Chapter Six:  Advising as Teaching and Learning is an additional and outstanding chapter in the second edition.  While conversations about advising as teaching and learning are not groundbreaking to advisors, dialogues are finally (as they ought to be) breaking out among other higher education employees.  In the first half of this chapter, Appleby boldly and successfully, through specific examples and prominent sources, compares skills, knowledge, and characteristics of effective teachers and advisors to exemplify the similarities between the two (pp. 87–89).  The second half of the chapter is devoted to the advising syllabus.  Appleby concisely describes the purpose of a syllabus in a college course, carefully details the essential components of it, and provides an on-line source for more examples.  

Self’s chapter, Advising Delivery:  Professional, Advisors, Counselors, and Other Staff, is a necessary update to the chapter in the first edition, Reinarz’s Delivering Academic Advising: Advisors Types.  While similar to that of Reinarz, Self’s chapter does not neglect the role of the advising support staff (pp. 210–19) but emphasizes the significance of these frequently disregarded individuals.  Often the secretaries and student workers answer the difficult questions that some students are uncomfortable asking their advisor.  In the office where I manage an advising program,  the students create solid connections with the secretaries who maintain the daily office functions.  

Two chapters in Part Four, Schuh’s Assessing Student Learning and Troxel’s Assessing the Effectiveness of the Advising Program, are effective theses on program assessment.  Those with limited assessment experience should begin by reading Schuh’s chapter, which details the historical view of assessment and identifies potential student learning outcomes for advising programs.  Through case studies, Schuh also cleverly illustrates how student learning might be accomplished and concludes with possible solutions to measure it.  Troxel, a name familiar to those involved in assessment, outlines an assessment plan for an advising program and offers these words that I encourage everyone to remember:  “Program assessment is not optional” (p. 386). 

The last part of the text, Gordon’s Exemplary Practices in Academic Advising, draws the connection from concept, as explained in the chapters, to practice, through descriptions of institutional advising programs that illustrate practical applications.  Each description is distinctively written by an individual from that program and ingeniously ends with a paragraph or two on the adaptability to other institutions.  I read this entire section thinking, “This is remarkable.  How can I adapt this to my program?”  

Even through all my raving, I see a couple weaknesses to be addressed in a third edition.  First, many of the chapters have valuable tables, charts, and figures, and I would appreciate their availability as quick and easy pullouts in the back of the text or on-line.  Second, I would suggest that authors be given ample space to write as much as they deem necessary.  For example, in the chapter entitled, Assessing Student Learning, Schuh says, “The comprehensiveness of this chapter is limited by space” (p. 356).  This chapter is short, and as I finished it, I kept saying, “I want to read more.”  Third, while Leonard, in his chapter, Advising Delivery:  Using Technology, gives a very complete overview of technologies that support advising, those who will most likely support future advising, and where to find more information on the types of technologies described, those who are not very tech-savvy are ignored. Examples of ways to utilize the featured technologies would have completed this chapter.  

As an instructor who also manages a group who employs an intrusive advising strategy, I recommend this text to anyone who works in higher education; it offers something for everyone to learn.  The second edition stands alone without the first edition; it is more appropriate and timely than the first edition for working with today’s student.  This text deserves prime placement on bookshelves with the most utilized reference texts.  It is the Bible for all who work either directly or indirectly with college students.  

Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2nd ed.). (2008). Book by Gordon, V. N., Habley, W. R., & Grites, T. J. (Eds.). Review Jen Hazel. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 568 pp., $55 (NACADA member), $65 (Nonmember). ISBN# 978-0-470-37170-1
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