Intrusive Advising for Freshmen

Categories: Approaches

The following article was first published in the Academic Advising News, Vol. 9(3), September 1987.

 

Authored by: Walter R. Earl

NACADA Charter member

Retired from Old Dominion University

'In loco parentis' has been replaced on the modern campus by the philosophy that students are responsible for their own survival and must relate to their educational experiences in the same way that other adults relate to their environment. The administrative strategy is that delivery of academic assistance services is based on deliberate self referral to advising centers, counseling centers and study help resource centers by any student who needs more than required 'programming' for classes. While this philosophy is functioning relatively well for the delivery of financial, medical and protective services, it is not functioning well in a campus environment for delivery of academic assistance services.
 
The first problem of the application of the self responsibility of life style to a campus is that the recipients of services are primarily late adolescents with low orientation to adult responsibilities. Students frequently do not place the proper emphasis on collegiate study skills, time management or academic motivation to meet the standards of success that are defined as earning a grade point average of C or higher. While we might reasonably expect upperclassmen to have maturated, suspension of freshmen is not a good teaching method.
 
The second problem is that although there are many developmental tasks for a college student (developing autonomy, managing emotions, etc.), the only one measured as the criterion of continuance is intellectual competence defined as grad point average. Unlike many other circumstances where mistakes simply reduce the quality of life, students who do not meet the minimum standards are suspended, which means they cease to exist in the environment. The problem is particularly crucial for freshmen. One-third of all college freshmen will not return for the sophomore year (Editor's note: 2003 statistics compiled by ACT show little difference in the ensuing years with the 2003 the national freshman to sophomore drop-out rate at 32.7%). Recent studies have shown that these non-persisting students are not identifiable as academically underprepared but are a standard cross-section of the entire freshman class (Earl, 1983). A 33% loss of standard population in any other environment would be considered an epidemic!

Current research on the importance of freshman year has shown that student retention is linked to the freshman year experience, that academic and social integration is the key to student success in the freshman year, and that students who become academic 'high risk' can be identified and taught to be successful.
 
The intrusive model of advising is action-orientated to involving and motivating students to seek help when needed. Utilizing the good qualities of prescriptive advising (expertise, awareness of student needs, structured programs) and of developmental advising (relationship to a student's total needs), intrusive advising is a direct response to identified academic crisis with a specific program of action. It is a process of identifying students at crisis points and giving them the message, 'You have this problem; here is a help-service.'
 
A study at Old Dominion University of an intrusive model that identified students on probation at the end of their first semester and contracted with them for specific strategies of academic assistance resulted in a statistically significant improvement three semesters later in grades and in persistence as compared to a control sample (Earl, 1987). In this case, as in most intrusive advising, students were contacted at the point of crisis (receiving probationary letters from the dean), and offered options for help (hot line, specific advisor availability). Motivation was enhanced by the students' (and parents') shock of poor grades and students received counseling about positive ways to deal with their failures. These counseling sessions identified the student's critical needs and then strongly recommended specific orientation modes (contracting, extra advising sessions, workshops, study groups, and orientation classes) that were responsive to a student's motivation for success created by the crisis situation.
 
The difficulty with most advising-student contacts is that they take place precisely at the most frantic time for both advisors and students - the registration period. By being intrusive at the beginning of a semester advisors can counsel students during a low advising work cycle rather than just at 'advising time.'

 

The theoretical framework of intrusive advising is based on three postulates from advising research. First, professional academic counselors can be trained to identify freshmen students who need orientation assistance. For example, those students identified as 'on probation' can be identified as needing specific help. Other examples of 'ripe' times for identifying students who respond to intrusive interventions are drop-add requests, required 'academic programming' for Greek and other organizations, dorm roommate change periods, first grading cycle and the end of the drop-permitted period.
 
The second postulate is that students DO respond to direct contact in which the potential problem in their academic life is identified and a resource of help offered. These are different students from those who generally self-refer for help. When offered specific help, a student's 'yes' or 'no' is an act of conscious decision caused by the intrusive intervention.
 
Third, deficiencies in the necessary 'fit' of a student to his/her academic environment are treatable. Students can be taught to be successful students and they can learn orientation skills. This has been clearly demonstrated by the successes of orientation curriculum such as the University 101 classes.
 
There are some distinct advantages of an intrusive mode of advising. First, a direct contact is established with an advisor who deals candidly with the student's academic situation when the student has maximum motivation to accept assistance.
 
Second, the student is intrusively placed in a position where he/she must do academic planning within the parameters of self-motivation. Even a 'no' response is at least a conscious decision about the academic situation.

Third, structured advising programs are enhanced by a student's involvement in contract modules. Work load of an advisor becomes related to the academic processes in a student's life rather than just the registration process. Frequently, group advising is the last session of an intrusive help workshop.
 
Intrusive advising has been shown to improve the effectiveness of advising, enhance student academic skills and increase retention.



Cite the above resource using APA style as:

Earl, W. R. (N.D.) Intrusive advising for freshman. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources web site: 
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Intrusive-Advising-for-Freshmen.aspx