Training & Development Resources

Advisor Training and Development

Authored By: Heidi Koring

Advisor training is the foundation of any advising program.   In Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2000), Margaret C. King, former NACADA president, recommends that advisor training should address three areas:

  • Conceptual: What concepts like developmental advising do advisors need to know?
  • Informational:   What do advisors need to know about in-house programs and policies.
  • Relational: What skills do advisors need to relate effectively with their advisees? (p. 293)

Yet even rudimentary advisor training is absent from many institutions.   In ACT's Fifth National Survey of Academic Advising (1984), Wesley Habley and Ricardo Morales reported that 'many institutions are providing a only minimum of training to those involved in advising.' (p. 4). Sufficient advisor training is not supplied for three simple reasons:   time, money, and lack of training for the trainers.   This overview will address ways to improve on-campus training despite these major stumbling blocks.


The most common form of advisor training is the single workshop that takes place during one day or part of a day.   Many institutions and advisors balk at spending more than a   minimal amount of time in advisor training activities. As a result, a trainer needs to make every minute count. The trainer should consider carefully what material really must be presented in face-to-face workshops and what could be presented in other   formats such as a print or electronic training manual, or a print or electronic advising newsletter. Often informational material can be provided to advisors using print or electronic media, thus leaving the workshop format for conceptual and relational training. This has the advantage of creating a more interactive workshop since conceptual and relational training lends itself to discussion, role play or case studies. Generally, implementing interactive advisor training is not only more effective than implementing a passive, lecture-base approach, it is enjoyed more by the participants. And after an enjoyable training experience, participants will be eager to attend subsequent training events and to recommend them to others.   If the trainer decides to present much of the informational material via print or electronic resources, participants should clearly understand that they are responsible for knowing that information. Providing a self-test to participants can be a reminder of the information that should be mastered.

Although ongoing training is extremely effective, time constraints can hinder advisors' regular attendance. Think outside the box when planning ongoing training opportunities. Effective interventions that supply continuing training include implementing an advisor-mentor system that pairs a more experienced advisor with a less experienced one, establishing an advisor list-serve or electronic newsletter. Holding a monthly brown-bag lunch or a monthly afternoon coffee break for discussion of advising issues can be an effective way to continue advisor training throughout the semester.

If lack of sufficient training funds is a stumbling block, then consider holding a training event co-sponsored by two campus groups. For instance, workshops on effective listening could be co-sponsored by academic advising and student development professionals for their joint staffs.   If there is more than one college or university in the area, the academic advising offices from these institutions can co-sponsor training events.   Also consider taking advantage of on-campus experts.  A faculty member from the Communication Studies Department can facilitate a workshop on building advisor-advisee relationships.   The coordinator for disabilities services can plan a program on advising disabled students, and minority affairs could co-sponsor a workshop training on cross-cultural communication issues. Is your faculty required to provide service to the university or the community in order to receive merit or to progress toward tenure at the institution? If so, faculty can present advising workshops that could help both presenter and advisors.

NACADA can provide faculty with opportunities for presenting and learning at the same time. Some faculty advisors may be able to use faculty development money to present at national or regional NACADA conferences, especially if the presentation is connected to their academic area. For instance, faculty members in psychology or sociology could present a session on resilience and at-risk students for a NACADA conference combining their knowledge of the academic discipline and their experience as advisors. Faculty who attend NACADA conferences generally report that they find the experience richly rewarding professionally and that they come away with greater knowledge of and appreciation for advising. Advisor trainers can benefit from NACADA resources as well. The advisor training video and the monograph, Advisor Training: Exemplary Practices in the Development of Advisor Skills (2003) can provide invaluable training resources. Participation with the NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission and its list-serve can help trainers connect across the association.

Last, but not least, use assessment to plan and to improve training events. Sending advisees a needs assessment before you plan the training event, will help the trainer focus on the areas where training is needed most. Assessing participants' satisfaction and the training event's effectiveness will help you improve your next event. Use several assessment modalities that will supply quantitative and qualitative results. A trainer is new to assessment can find helpful resources at the NACADA Clearinghouse and the NACADA Advising Assessment Commission web sites.

Authored by: Heidi Koring
Lynchburg College


Habley, W., & Morales, R. (1998). Current practices in academic advising: Final report on ACT's Fifth National Survey of Academic Advising. (National Academic Advising Association, Monograph No. 6). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

King, M. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In Gordon, V.N. & Habley, W.R., & Associates (Eds.),   Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (pp.289-97). San Francisco: Jossey Bass   

Resource web links:

NACADA based advisor training materials:

Cite the above resource using APA style as:

Koring, H. (2005). Advisor Training and Development. Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

Frequently Asked Questions summary from ACADV list for academic advisors:

Original inquiry: 'I am in the process of putting together a short, but information-packed, 30 minute advisor training session for the faculty of our individual academic departments.  If anyone has put together a similar session and would be willing to share their format, outline and/or handouts, I would be very appreciative.  Thanks so much.'


1) Each year I am responsible for preparing one or two days of advising information for our faculty advisors (I am Lead Advisor/Counselor at a community college). Last year I developed a very simple but effective way to get a lot of information out in a short length of time.  Each faculty member was given a name badge, which was printed on one of four colors. The faculty were instructed to get into their teams indicated by the color of their badges.  The teams were purposely developed to be a diverse cross-section of faculty members.  A question was presented on a PowerPoint overhead and an expert was present from the area the question addressed to judge the correctness of the answers.  The first team to have a representative (which had to be a different person each time) stand up to answer the question got the first opportunity to respond to the question. Each question was worth $100.00 and 'funny money' was paid to the team answering the question correctly.  Also bonuses money was given to any team able to provide valuable additional information to the initially correct first answer (again judged and amount awarded by the 'resident expert in the area').  To wrap up each question a PowerPoint response (information provided by 'expert') was quickly reviewed.  The winning team was treated to a pizza party.

The 'experts' were from many different areas (i.e., Financial Aid, Disabled Student Services, Registration/Records, etc.) and were notified ahead of time so they could plan to attend and help with appropriate questions.  The 'experts' appreciated the opportunity to have input into what information was disseminated and being able to offer some additional input where they felt it may be needed or faculty had questions.

This activity moved fast, got lots of information disseminated in a short time, and will be back by popular demand again this year.  This year I plan to modify this activity by coordinating the questions to specific topics covered in a the faculty handbook; instead of using the term 'Faculty
Handbook,' it will be titled, 'Faculty Answer Book.'  Hopefully, this will make the material more pertinent to the faculty advisors' needs, easier to locate information, acquaint faculty with contents of handbook, and more often used............(I can hope, can't I :-).

Ann Fauss

2) I have worked our training to about 45 minutes, and don't think I would want to make it much shorter than that.  But I'll share with you my outline for a short training.  I like to do an overview of the process for new people (and to remind some of the less active advisors!).  Then I review the goals of the advising session so that they can keep in mind what they are to accomplish.   The comments about advising are more general, to have them consider their motivations for this effort.  Then, I will take them through a typical advising session, using our advising forms.  I use a checklist that I have attached.  If nobody asks too many questions, I can usually do this in about 45 minutes.

John Wick
Naugatuck Valley Community College
Waterbury CT

OVERVIEW of Western State College (CO) Advising Program

We do not let returning students register until they have seen an advisor. The meeting with the advisor is the responsibility of the student.  We do invite them initially, and they will get reminders, but they need to take care of it. The registrar uses the sticker on the ID card to verify that the student has seen an advisor. The advice may cover several semesters, and we have stickers that are dated accordingly.  Students do not have to come to the advisor every semester! Advisors make notes on an Advising Sheet, student gets notes, copies to Counseling Center and for advisor to keep. Advisors take responsibility for making sure student has proper courses to graduate, and makes good decisions about electives.


  1. Help students select courses necessary to complete his/her program.  The student should have a clear idea of what you recommend for the next semester ( in writing).
  2. Be the person that the student identifies with as a contact for assistance at the college.  You are the person they should seek out for information, and referrals.  This can make a difference in retention.
  3. Provide career information in your area of expertise.  The Co-op and the Counseling Center have a good Career Resource Center and counselors to refer students to also.
  4. Refer the student to other areas of the college as needed.


1. It's important.

There will be students who will want to get your initials on their sticker and seem not to care about getting advised.  However, each student is important to us, and what we say often makes a big difference to them.  They do get wrong information from other students, they do make assumptions, they often do not read the catalog.  More importantly, they do need a contact with a professional at the college.  Many of the students you will see are sitting with someone for the very first time.  It can make quite an impression.

2. It's not difficult

Remember that as long as we care about the student, have some basic information, and resources for the rest of it, we can't go wrong.  Keep the catalog and student handbook nearby, and our handouts, and of course the college telephone list.  Make that phone call as necessary, before giving wrong information.

3.Take care of your students.

Try to reach each one, find out if they are coming back, if not, why not.  Let them know that you are their advisor for the time that they are at the college, unless they change their major.  Make a difference in their staying in college.

4. There are benefits for you.
Getting to know the students, listening to their hopes and dreams, will give you a connection with the college community that is very valuable.  You will have opportunities to hear what students think of the courses they take, and to discuss how your courses fit in to their programs, how the other courses impact it.

Suggested Articles: 

  • Clifton, C. & Long, C. (1992).  The advising connection: A training program for faculty advisors, Texas, Amarillo College. (Eric Document Reproduct Service No. Ed 348 106)
  • Gelwick, B.D. (1974) Training faculty to do career advising. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 53, 214-217.
  • Gordon, N.V. (1980) Training academic advisers: Content and Method.  Journal of College Student Personnel, 21, 334-339.
  • Keller, M.C. (1988) Advisor training.  In W.R.
  • Habley (ed.) The status and future of academic advising.  The American College Testing Program.
  • Munski, D.C. (1983) Maximizing  career oriented academic advising at the departmental level.  NACADA Journal, 3, 17-20.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Examples of training for advisors in the building of relationships in short time interaction with students?


 A series of case studies and/or exercises would really help here. I would certainly suggest using the NACADA advisor training video tape. It follows a new faculty member who is learning to relate to students as she grows into her advising. Also, you might want to connect with someone in your communications department who would be willing to share expertise with relationship building.

It is not rocket science. Simple, straight forward respect for students as human beings will go a long way.

The Missouri State Master Advisor Handbook has an excellent chapter on relating to students. Contact:

Harry Cook
Missouri State University

Q. As one who is responsible for providing advising information and training to faculty and staff advisors at my institution, can you offer me advice on enticing advisors to attend such events when they believe they have 'done advising for more than 20 years. If I don't know how to do it by now, I never will.

There is no quick fix here, but I have a few ideas:

 examine the nature of your instructional is my contention that we forget everything we learned about instructional design when we plan advisor training programs. Advisors don't like the lecture method any more that students do......actively engage individuals in the training activities.

conduct a needs assessment......what is it that advisors really want to know more about?

always acknowledge individual participation with a thank you letter copied to the superior of the advisors who attend the training.

ask some of the advisors to participate in the planning and the delivery of the training seek help from your media division to develop attractive training presentations and support material.

Ask the VP to send out the invitations to the training program.

Offer more than one session for training to allow those 'who were busy' at the time of training another option to attend.

Consider which media can be utilized individually.

There are probably many other ideas which can be explored, but these are starters.

 Wes Habley
 Office for the Enhancement of Educational Practices, ACT, Inc.



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