Resource Web links to academic advising syllabi
Advising Syllabus 101
Authored by Tonya McKenna Trabant
What is an advising syllabus and why should it be utilized? An advising syllabus, whether used by individual advisors or by whole units, offers many benefits that can enhance our work with and for students. In addition, creating an advising syllabus can be the catalyst that leads to important explorations and questions about the role of advising on our campuses.
In essence, an advising syllabus is a tool which allows individual advisors or offices to outline the advising relationship and experience for their advisees. Use of this tool is grounded in our understanding that advising is essential to the educational mission of our institutions. On the majority of our campuses, course syllabi are a regular part of every student's classroom education. However, the role of our advisees' co-curricular experiences is not often as clearly defined even though literature indicates that student success highly correlates to activities outside of the classroom (see Cress et al., 2001, Higbee, 2002, Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991).
Advisors often help students navigate between curricular and co-curricular issues; an advising syllabus is one way we can help students close the gap between the two. For example, advisors model and teach life and professional skills that support student academic success. Additionally, advising is one of the few resources students find consistent from semester to semester; thus it is at the center of student education.
Generally speaking, most advising syllabi have eight main elements:
Why should we define the advising relationship for our advisees? How do we communicate our expectations to them? Benefits of advising syllabi range from the discussion of large philosophical issues to the delineation of concrete, everyday ways to help students. Creation of a syllabus encourages us to write and commit to an advising philosophy and a definition of our work. Although these statements of our beliefs may not differ significantly from the departmental mission (and it is important that they not conflict), crafting of such statements is a useful way to communicate with various stakeholders. Advisees benefit from knowing how advisors define advising; parents appreciate knowing what they can and cannot expect from their child's advisor. In addition, an explicit explanation of the work of advising can be an invaluable tool to communicate with colleagues and administrators.
The U.S.worldview is predominantly western; this means that we have strong preferences for explicit, written expectations and instructions. An advising syllabus caters to this preference by collecting expectations and pertinent advising information in one uncomplicated format. Without an advising syllabus, students often are left to 'figure it out' on their own; this practice means that students can overlook key information.
If we fail to share our procedures and expectations with advisees, we miss an opportunity to carve out a place for advising in the student's education. When we state a dual set of expectations, we hold ourselves and our students accountable for the appropriate parts of our relationship. If we take a developmental view of advising (see http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/95/article.aspx), an advising syllabus can support students' active engagement in their education. Instead of simply receiving information, students are explicitly expected and encouraged to fully participate in the advising relationship. Furthermore, when we state expectations and outcomes we naturally create assessment parameters.
An advising syllabus also helps counter inappropriate expectations. Some questions that may be addressed include 'Will my advisor tell me what classes to take?', 'What can I talk about with my advisor?', and 'How are advisors different from my high school guidance counselor?' Furthermore, since syllabi are widely used on most campuses, we benefit from the familiar format; students, faculty, and administrators recognize that syllabi define a certain experience and are educational tools.As with any tool, advising syllabi present both benefits and challenges. While the benefits may outweigh the challenges, it is important that we actively discuss the challenges in order to reap the most benefit from an advising syllabus.
Addressing these challenges can be daunting; however, with patience and persistence we can create another beneficial way to advocate for advising our advisees. Despite, and perhaps because of, these challenges, an advising syllabus is a worthy consideration for all advisors. Its many benefits help us create an understanding that advising is essential to the education and success for our students.
Find examples of advising syllabus currently in use in the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources at: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articled/269/article.aspx.
Authored by:Tonya McKenna Trabant
Cross-College Advising Service
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Cress, C.M., Astin, H.S., Zimmerman-Oster, K., & Burkhardt, J.C. (2001). Developmental outcomes of college students; involvement in leadership activities. Journal of College Student Development, 42(1), 15-26.
Higbee, J.L. (2002, Spring). The Application of Chickering's Theory of Student Development to Student Success in the Sixties and Beyond. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 18 (2). (pp. 24-36).
Pascarella, E.T., Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research; San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Further Readings - for syllabus design information
Davis, B.G. (2001). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
For creating student learning objectives:
Overview on how to construct student learning objectives
Resource links dealing with student learning objectives
For exploring advising as teaching related topics:
Appleby, D., (2001). The Teaching-Advising Connection. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Online.
Lowenstein, M. (2005, Fall). If Advising is Teaching, What do Advisors Teach?, NACADA Journal, 25 (2). (pp.65-73)
Metzner, Barbara S. Perceived Quality of Academic Advising: The Effect on Student Attrition. American Educational Research Journal. Vol. 26 (3), Fall 1989, pp. 422-442.
Smith, J., Dai, D., & Szelest, B. (2006, Spring). Helping first-year students make the transition to college through advisor-research collaboration. NACADA Journal, 26(1). (pp. 67-76).
For exploring learning outside the classroom
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2003). Self-assessment guides. Washington DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards.
Cress, C.M., Astin, H.S., Zimmerman-Oster, K., & Burkhardt, J.C. (2001). Developmental outcomes of college students; involvement in leadership activities. Journal of College Student Development , 42(1),15-26.
Higbee, J.L. (2002, Spring). The Application of Chickering's Theory of Student Development to Student Success in the Sixties and Beyond. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, 18(2). (pp. 24-36).
Kuh, G.D., Schuh, J.H., Whitt, E.J., and Associates (1991). Involving Colleges: Successful Approaches to Fostering Student Learning and Development Outside the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pascarella, E.T., Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schroeder, C.C. (1996). Special Issue: The Student Learning Imperative. Journal of College Student Development 37 (2). Washington, D.C.: American College Personnel Association.
Skipper, T. & Argo, R. (2003). Involvement in Campus Activities of First-Year College Students. The First-year Experience Monograph Series. Columbia, SC : National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
Historical views on the role of advisors as educators:
Gaw, Esther Allen. (1933), Advising means Administration. The Journal of Higher Education, 4 (4). (pp. 179-186).
Shofstall, W.P., (1938). Guiding the Teacher: Student Advising as a Means for Instructional Improvement. The Journal of Higher Education, 9 (8). (429-435).
Cite this resource using APA style as:
Trabant, T.D. (2006). Advising Syllabus 101. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:
Index of Topics
Do you have questions? Do you need help with an advising topic?
Concept of Academic Advising
Core Values of Academic Advising
CAS Standards for Academic Advising