Resource Web links for communication and listening skills
Bridges: Creating Effective Communication in Advising
Authored by: J.D. Chase and Melissa Chase
communication is a continuous and significant task for academic
advisors. Advisors work with students on everything from finding
open classes, to career planning, to life issues and must do so
within the context of numerous policies/procedures and curriculum
requirements. The method by which advisors communicate with others
is influenced by the way information is perceived and processed,
which can occur in multiple ways or dimensions. The combination
of the dimensions of learning is also known as learning style
(Felder & Silverman, 1988). When advisors can determine their
own dominant dimensions of learning, communication can improve
considerably with advisees.
including Gregorc (1982), have described the dominant dimensions
of learning in different ways. Felder and Silverman (1988) delineated
these dimensions as: Sensing versus intuitive (the type of information
perceived); visual versus verbal (the method in which information
is perceived); active versus reflective (how information is processed),
and sequential versus global (how the learner makes sense of the
information). Felder and Silverman's research also employed Kolb's
Theory of Experiential Learning (Kolb, 1984) and Jung's Theory
of Personalities (Adler, Fordham, McGuire, and Reed, 1971). This
article describes the dimensions of learning style and the impact
on communication with advisees is explored. Recommendations for
an advisor training activity are also illustrated.
Use of Learning Styles Inventories
several researchers have crafted learning styles inventories,
one particular instrument is based upon Felder and Silverman's
research (1988). The Index of Learning Styles © instrument (Felder
& Soloman, n.d.)assesses
four possible dimensions of a learner's style of learning. This
self-reporting, self-scoring instrument consists of 44 questions.
The questionnaire canbe completed
in approximately 15 - 20 minutes online (or in printed version)
with scores to determine the more dominant aspect of each of the
four dimensions of this learning style model (Felder & Soloman,
n.d.). The researchers emphasize that although a learner will
most likely exhibit stronger tendencies toward one aspect or characteristic
of each dimension of learning, it is possible to exhibit characteristics
of both depending on the learning situation. However, a balance
of the two dimensions for each style is preferred. Additional
information is available to participants to further describe these
characteristics (Felder & Solomon, n.d.). This instrument
has been used extensively in the classroom and can also be used
effectively in advising meetings.
sensing learner focuses more on facts, details, and does not handle
distractions well. Advisors with the dominant sensing dimension
of learning will most likely be able to provide specific, written
instructions, organized plans, and logical steps. They are best
able to assist their advisees in interpreting and understanding
policies/procedures and degree requirements but may not be able
to help students understand the 'big picture' as it relates to
their academic career.
intuitive learner prefers to focus more on abstract concepts and
ideas and deals well with situations that require problem solving.
Advisors with the dominant intuitive dimension of learning can
easily grasp concepts, theories, and ideas, with less attention
to details. This individual will better assist the advisee with
matters that may emphasize discussion with a focus on critical
thinking and understanding the 'big picture.' However, this advisor
may not be able to focus on the detailed aspects of helping students
understand and interpret policies, procedures, and degree requirements.
visual learner perceives information best through such methods
as pictures, diagrams, illustrations, and graphs-anything they
can see. Advisors who are more dominant with visual modes will
be better able to assist students through drawings, diagrams,
and charts when explaining policies, procedures, and degree requirements
rather than through mere discussion.
verbal learner focuses more on discussion and what is being said
rather than visual demonstrations of charts and pictures. Advisors
who are more verbal will be better able to help their advisees
understand polices and procedures through discussing the implications
of policies, procedures, and degree requirements.
active learner will focus more on what is happening in the external
world versus what is occurring internally. Active learners prefer
hands-on activities that help them understand through scenarios,
group discussions, and group-led creative problem solving. Advisors
who are active learners may be more effective in relaying policies
and procedures through real-world examples and influencing students
to become more involved in their academic careers through experiential
learning experiences, job opportunities, and other ways they can
acquire hands-on learning opportunities.
learners will focus more on what is happening internally and require
time to think before responding to situations. Reflective learners
tend to prefer working more independently and thinking more critically
about their learning experiences. Advisors who are predominantly
reflective will best assist advisees by helping them to concentrate
more fully on their plans of study (rather than using real-life
scenarios) and consider the 'big picture' regarding implications
of academic policies, procedures, and degree requirements.
learners tend to focus more on understanding information as they
receive it. Step-by-step instructions are important to this type
of learner and problem solving must occur in a logical, step-by-step
manner. Sequential advisors will be able to best assist students
in understanding the specific steps needed to understand, interpret,
and apply academic policies and procedures.
learners tend to not focus on immediately processing information
as it is presented, but rather by spending additional time to
consider the underlying theories first. Likewise, the global advisor
may need extra time to consider and think about information before
assisting students in understanding and interpreting policies
and procedures. Additionally, such advisors can help students
in better understanding long-term implications of decisions based
on academic policies, procedures, and degree requirements.
it may not be possible to administer a learning styles inventory
to all students in advising meetings,
an understanding of learning dimensions can help advisors better
understand how their own dominant dimensions can influence communication
of Learning Styles in Advisor Training
further illustrate the types of challenges an advisor may face
in communicating with their advisees (based on their dominant
dimensions of learning), advisor training can incorporate the
use of children's toys to demonstrate how the breakdown in communication
can create problems. The foundation of this activity is derived
from a leadership training exercise 'Bridge
It' from Silver Bullets (Rohnke, 1989). The learning
styles inventories can be administered and a short presentation
conducted to discuss the role of the different dimensions of their
learning style and their impact on how advisors communicate with
others. The group is then divided into four smaller groups(selected randomly) with each group building part of a bridge
using building blocks. Because there are multiple dimensions to
each participant's learning style, it is not feasible to attempt
to divide the group by specific dimensions. However, the discussion
at the conclusion of the activity should focus on how these dimensions
of learning may have influenced their participation.
the activity begins, communications between the groups are severely
constrained. The activity is divided into five-minute segments
with a one-minute period of communication at the end of each segment.
In the first five-minute segment, the requirements of the bridge
are explained and each group opens their container of building
blocks to explore the resources they have available. In the first
communication period, representatives of each group come to the
center of the room and our allowed to write and/or draw in order
to communicate with each other for one minute.
representatives then return to their groups for the second five-minute
segment where the groups attempt to make progress building their
portion of the bridge. In the second one-minute communication
period, representatives come to the center of the room and are
allowed to speak. They then return to their groups for the third
five-minute segment where the groups again attempt to make progress
building their portion of the bridge. In the third communication
period, representatives come to the center of the room and are
allowed to gesture. They then return to their groups for the final
five-minute segment where the groups attempt to finish building
their portion of the bridge. At the end of this segment, the groups
bring their portion of the bridge to the center of the room where
it is assembled.
the activity is completed, a debriefing should occur to spark
discussion on what did and did not work. The participants are
asked to provide feedback on how to use the skills learned to
communicate more effectively when working with diverse student
populations, based on the learning styles and modes of communication.
for possible discussion:
- How did your dominant dimensions
of learning impact your participation in constructing this bridge?
- Did a leader emerge in your group?
What were the leader's dominant dimensions of learning? How
did this person's learning style impact the communication and
planning within the groups?
- How do you think your own dominant
dimensions of learning impact how you communicate with your
advisees on a daily basis? How can you improve communication
based on what you have learned?
- Would it have helped to have a
documented design or documented plan of action?
- How does the constrained communication
mirror what we encounter in the real world?
academic advisor's style of learning can strongly influence how
h/she communicates with advisees. Using self-assessment learning
styles inventories can vastly improve how an advisor communicates
with advisees on a daily basis.Such
assessment instruments can also be quite effective in advisor
training situations and provide opportunities for ongoing professional
and personal development.
College of Information Science and Technology
College of Arts and Sciences
- NACADA Webcast recordings:
H., Fordham, M., McGuire, W., & Read, H., Eds. (1971). Psychological
types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
R. M. and Soloman, B.A. (n.d.). The Index of Learning Styles
Questionnaire. Retrieved from http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/ILSpage.html.
R. M. and Soloman, B.A. (n.d.). Learning Styles and Strategies.
R. M., Silverman, L. K. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in
engineering education. Engr. Education, 78 (7),
A. F. (1982). An adult's guide to style. Columbia, CT:
Gregorc Associates, Inc.
D. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
K. (1989). Silver bullets : A guide to initiative
problems, adventure games and trust activities. Dubuque,
this resource using APA style as:
J.D. & Chase, M. (2007). Building Bridges: Creating Effective
Communication in Advising.Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising
Resources Web site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/83/article.aspx