Academic Advising Resources

Implications for Faculty Advising

Stephen Wallace

One of the intended outcomes of the 2011 NACADA National Survey included a better understanding of faculty advising. Six survey questions addressed faculty advising issues, and the results provide encouraging insight into the value of advising, the important role that faculty members fill as advisors, and helpful data on faculty advising practices in a variety of institutional settings. The findings also reveal little progress in crucial areas related to the advancement of quality faculty advising—professional development, recognition, and reward systems for faculty advisors. Despite helpful data gained from this survey, the generalizability of findings from one institution to another remains limited because the survey questions do not examine some of the key factors that make faculty advising unique to each campus, such as institutional mission and goals, campus climate, politics, resources, and differences in faculty roles and responsibilities.

While more in-depth research into the complexities of faculty advising is needed, readers can use the survey findings to initiate critical examinations of their own faculty-advisor programs. They can also raise questions about efforts on their campuses that support and motivate faculty members to strive for excellence as advisors.

Key Role of Faculty Advisors

Advisors function within diverse environments and face the intense challenge to deliver quality services responsive to the specific contexts of the institution and the changing needs of students. For example, differences in responses related to the various types of institutions represented (2-year, proprietary, and public and private bachelor, master, and doctorate institutions of varying size). The people who advise, student requirements to receive faculty advising, and advisor caseloads vary according to the type and size of the institution. This finding provides more evidence that no one-size-fits-all model works for all advising programs. Therefore, advising administrators cannot simply adopt programs successful in a different situation.

The findings from this survey also imply that institutional size, mission, and advising resources are primary considerations in determining faculty involvement in advising. At smaller institutions with limited professional staff, faculty are more likely to advise. Larger institutions may not employ enough faculty members to offer mandatory student advising.

Policy makers need to ask if decisions regarding advising models are resource driven or student centered, and they need to clarify the role advisors play in this institutional decision-making process. Advisors must take the lead to ensure that their campus advising model aligns with their institutional type, resources available, and the characteristics and needs of their student population.

While a vast array of individuals undertake advising responsibilities, this survey reports that a majority of campuses continue to rely on faculty involvement in academic advising and that the role of the faculty in academic advising varies according to institutional type, size, and the institution’s policy on mandatory advising for students (see also Chapter 4). Even if not in an official advising capacity, faculty members at all types of institutions offer a front-line point of contact for student questions and concerns. In today’s economic climate in higher education, faculty members will likely assume greater roles in delivering academic advising. King and Kerr (2005) noted that “the advantages of using faculty are their program and course knowledge, their knowledge of related career fields, the respect they hold within the institution, the cost to the institution, and the fact that research shows a clear relationship between student interaction with faculty and student retention” (p. 320).

Advising Caseload

The survey findings provide interesting insight into faculty advising practices, such as the relatively low average advisee caseload for faculty advisors and the relatively high number of institutions that require advising for students. At 25, the reported average caseload is encouraging; however, this number varies according to institutional type, and the reported average caseload does not represent a recommendation. To determine appropriate caseloads for quality faculty advising, additional investigation needs to distinguish between the various roles that faculty advisors fill. Advisor experiences and perceptions may differ between faculty who carry a full-time, reduced, or no teaching load and those who advise as a part of their teaching responsibilities; between faculty advisors in tenure and nontenure tracks; and faculty members who advise only majors in their academic department and those who advise undeclared students. These differences impact the optimal advising caseloads (see Chapter 6).

The survey data indicate that where advising is required for students the use of the faculty to help advise increases. A more detailed look at how mandatory advising impacts advising practices as well as faculty member and student perceptions of advising may prove informative as would research that determines if advising is mandatory for the faculty. On some campuses, faculty members must advise as part of their teaching responsibilities or collective bargaining agreement. On other campuses, advising responsibilities may be assigned to only those who volunteer. Senior faculty members at research-focused universities may have no advising responsibilities, and some colleges use new hires as part of their initiation, allowing more senior members to opt out of advising.

Professional Development

Faculty perceptions of their advising roles vary. Many embrace advising as a vital part of their lives as educators, but others view academic advising as a bothersome add-on responsibility to their already heavy workload. One wonders how faculty perceptions of their advising role affect the amount of time and effort they put toward advising students. 

According to King and Kerr (2005), faculty advisors produce educational benefits for students as well as economic benefits for the institution; however, no research to date identifies benefits that primarily motivate institutions, but the question may be partly answered by the level of institutional support and resources committed to faculty advisors and the systems in place to recognize and reward excellence in faculty advising. This NACADA survey indicates that support, resources, and institutional motivation for faculty advising are lacking or inconsistently offered on many campuses.

Because faculty members play such an integral role in academic advising, they need the information, tools, and resources to engage effectively in the advising process. The importance of quality advisor-development programs has been documented (Brown, 2008; King, 2000), but the data from this survey suggest that limited internal and external training and development opportunities are available to most faculty advisors. In an encouraging trend, webinars are gaining in popularity; however, 10% of respondents reported that they do not know the training and development activities available to them. While the survey reports the number of faculty advisors with some access to training opportunities, it does not provide information to assess the extent to which the institution supports or expects advisor training nor does it reflect the number of faculty advisors who take advantage of the opportunities. Many advisors seem left on their own to manage their professional development and may not have access to quality, ongoing professional development networks.

The lack of support for ongoing, quality faculty-advisor development programs on most campuses is not new: Habley (2004) reported on it in his report on The ACT Sixth National Survey and Drake (2007) addressed it in a NACADA-sponsored webinar presentation. Even on campuses that offer advisor development programs, if attendance is not mandated or rewarded, faculty participation may be low. Those committed to improving the value of advising and serious about delivering it must encourage administrators, directors of advising programs, and advisors to embrace new thinking about faculty advising and advisor development (see Wallace & Wallace, 2010). Quality faculty advisors are made not born, and advisors must know when and how to access to quality training and development opportunities.

Quality faculty-advising programs flourish within institutional cultures where leadership and staff consider advising a priority as well as support and provide resources for advisor development. Institutional leadership must creatively consider ways to develop and deliver an effective advisor-development program within the realities of their institutional culture and resources available. Even within budget-strapped institutions, effective web and technology resources with links to NACADA resources and publications can easily be developed and conveniently made available to advisors; however, 40% of respondents reported that this venue was an available professional-development option. In addition, mentoring programs in which new faculty advisors connect with experienced advisors can easily be implemented. Because many advisors must manage their own professional development, they should be assisted in ways to design a personal professional-development strategy.

Recognition and Reward

Faculty members must act as master jugglers of multiple complex responsibilities, and like all busy professionals, they operate under a basic principle of time management: They make time for the activities they consider most important. To embrace the value of advising and advisor development, faculty members must believe that development is a good investment of their time and professional energy. Those who do not think that the institution values advising may resent advising duties, considering them unwelcomed burdens added to their already heavy workload. Therefore, to enhance the perception that advising is appreciated, “institutional leaders [should] orchestrate a set of rewards, incentives, and recognitions, both tangible, and intangible, that encourages advisors to deliver quality advising ” (Habley, 2007, p. 424).

Effective recognition and reward systems reflect the importance the institution places on faculty advising and motivates faculty members to strive for excellence as advisors. However, according to the survey, most faculty members report that their campus lacks appropriate, consistent systems to recognize and reward excellence in advising, especially in promotion and tenure processes, which clearly creates a negative effect on faculty motivation toward advising. Faculty perceptions of recognition and rewards given, and their impact on advising, should be explored in more depth.

Drake (2008) provided an overview of reward principles that contribute to organizational effectiveness and explained ways these principles can be incorporated into advisor recognition and reward systems. Readers will find her review of institutional practices in the areas of professional development, evaluation, and recognition and reward strategies very helpful. Drake made the case that effective advisor reward and recognition programs represent the values, mission, and culture of the institution and ensure faculty advisor motivation, buy-in, and commitment by engaging them in the development, implementation, and ongoing assessment of the reward program. Therefore, institutions must determine—within the contexts of their mission, values, goals, and cultures—the types of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards most valued by their faculty advisors.

To help determine the most valued faculty rewards, administrators can turn to the 2007 NACADA Survey of Recognitions and Rewards for Academic Advising, which reported faculty advisor importance ranks of the various rewards and recognition options available to them. Responses indicated that more than cash awards, merit pay, and consideration for promotion and tenure, faculty members most value support for professional development activities that enable them to grow and develop as advisors such that they best meet students’ advising needs. Advisors also value and express a high level of satisfaction with the intrinsic rewards that come from seeing their advisees grow and flourish. Respondents indicated that certificates of appreciation, recognition programs, plaques, news releases, and preferential parking were least valued.

Even in the absence of institutional incentives, faculty members who believe they are making a contribution, advancing their own professional achievements, and engendering respect and appreciation feel motivated. They also receive encouragement when they perceive that advising issues garner the attention of institutional leadership.

Conclusion

The findings from the 2011 NACADA National Survey provide useful insight into the important role of faculty members as advisors. On one hand, respondents perceive faculty academic advising as an integral component for mission accomplishment at institutions of all types. On the other hand, long-standing problems still hinder the advancement of quality faculty advising. The limited scope of the survey items indicates that investigations at greater depth would provide a richer understanding of faculty advising. The following research questions may inspire future researchers:

  • Do all faculty advise or only some based on faculty status?
  • How might the advising experiences of faculty members in tenure or nontenure track positions differ?
  • How might the advising experiences of teaching faculty members differ from those of full-time advisors with faculty status?
  • How might the perceptions and attitudes of faculty members toward advising differ where advising is mandatory or voluntary for the faculty?

Campus administrators, directors of advising, and faculty advisors should use the survey questions and findings to design their own set of questions to assess faculty advising program at their own campuses. They might explore the following possible questions:

  • What is the operational definition of faculty advising on our campus?
  • What value do administrators, faculty members, and students place on faculty advising?
  • What evidence shows institutional support for quality faculty advising?
  • Are faculty advisors provided meaningful opportunities to gain the knowledge and develop the skills needed to achieve excellence as advisors?
  • Do faculty advisors feel valued by the campus recognition and reward systems for excellence in advising?
  • Is the campus advising model influenced more by institutional resources or student needs?
  • To what extent are faculty advisors involved in the decision-making processes on issues that affect advising delivery?
  • What systems could better inform and encourage faculty participation in advisor development opportunities?

References

Brown, T. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.) (pp. 309–322). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J.  (2007, February 22). Components of a successful faculty advising program: Institutional commitment, professional development, incentives, and recognition. NACADA-sponsored Webinar presentation.

Drake, J. (2008). Recognition and reward for academic advising in theory and in practice. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.) (pp. 396–412). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Habley, W. R. (2007). Putting students first in the campus community: Pathway five. In G. L. Kramer (Ed.), Fostering student success in the campus community (pp. 407–431). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Habley, W. R. (Ed.). (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey (Monograph No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

King, M. C. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 289–297). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

King, M., & Kerr, T. (2005). Academic advising. In M. L. Upcraft, J. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging & supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college  (pp. 320–338). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wallace, S., & Wallace, B. (2010). Training faculty advisors. In Comprehensive advisor training and development: Practices that deliver (Monograph No. 21) (pp. 53-59). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.


Cite this resource using APA style as:

Wallace, S. (2011). Implications for faculty advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web Site: 
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Implications-for-faculty-advising-2011-National-Survey.aspx

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