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Creating a Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising

 David Freitag

Creating a written personal philosophy of academic advising requires thought, introspection, study, and clearly communicated personal objectives for advising. It takes time and commitment by those actively participating in the field. Although not an easy or quick process, documenting a personal philosophy can and should be done by all academic advisors. 

The new advisor can take heart: An advisor’s personal philosophy belongs to him or her alone and can thus take the form and content that best embodies individual preferences in prose and priorities for practice. Although the advisor should consider existing guidelines and include essential components, the philosophy mirrors her or his unique view. In addition, new advisors can expect to incorporate changes into their personal philosophy to demonstrate their increased understanding of advising, advisees, and their institution and unit. A living document, the statement of personal philosophy serves as a reference to which the advisor can return to draw inspiration and reconnect with the reasons for entering the field. The creation and maintenance of a personal advising philosophy helps an advisor become more effective now and in the future.

The Personal Philosophy Statement

Definition
A personal philosophy of academic advising is reflected in a positive, self-motivating statement of academic advising as the practitioner perceives it. The advisor uses theory as a foundation for approaches with students. The statement serves as an explanation for the reason to take on advising responsibilities, guides day-to-day decisions, helps shape advising goals and objectives, and provides a solid basis for practice (Dyer, 2007).

Purpose
A personal philosophy of academic advising gives structure to advising sessions and provides “a sense of clarity and focus in day-to-day interactions with students and in long-term career goals” (Dyer, 2007, p. 48). It allows an advisor to incorporate theories of student development into daily work and “provides a clear rationale” for interactions with students (Dyer, 2007, p. 48).

Even if they do not realize it, every advisor already operates under a personal philosophy of academic advising. Each uses a selected (perhaps initially without intention) approach and method in practice. Awareness of one’s own personal philosophy of academic advising enables the advisor to examine and improve their relationships with and the outcomes for students. Therefore, all who advise students, such as staff, faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate peers, should develop and express a personal philosophy of academic advising.

Content
Although an individual statement of academic advising philosophy differs from that of other advisors, the document often and justifiably includes common elements. For example, an advisor’s philosophy should reflect the spirit of the NACADA Statement of Core Values of Academic Advising (NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, 2005), the ethical code that guides the profession. Advisors need not directly reference the institutional or unit visions, values, missions, and goals in their personal statement; however, their articulation of advising, personal values, personal advising mission, and professional goals should not stand in opposition to the values featured in institutional documents or set down by NACADA.

A personal philosophy of academic advising should include a description of the approach(es), student development theories, and interaction strategies used in practice. The philosophy also can include an explanation of interest areas and ways in which the advisor uses (or intends to use) them. Advisor interest does not necessarily translate into a specialization; academic advisors should purposely acquire a broad knowledge base as well as identify specific topics that they find particularly applicable or intriguing. New advisors may explore issues that will advance their own self-development or the profession.

An advisor’s personal philosophy should indicate the level of mastery to which the advisor aspires. Freitag (2011) delineated four levels of professionalism advisors demonstrate through actions and behaviors: advising practitioner, emerging advising professional, academic advising professional, or academic advising scholar. An advisor’s philosophy should affirm the choices made now and in the future to reach the classification of choice.

Creating a Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising 

To create an effective personal philosophy an advisor must build a solid academic foundation in advising and in student development. A new advisor can develop his or her knowledge base through classes, readings, and study. The New Advisor Development Chart (chapter 1) provides a comprehensive overview of the knowledge that the new advisor will need to master over the first three years in practice.

In addition to the chapters in this Guidebook, other resources provide additional exploration opportunities:

  • Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook edited by Virginia N. Gordon, Wesley R. Habley, and Thomas J. Grites (2008), especially the following chapters:
  • 2—Theoretical Foundations of Academic Advising by Peter L. Hagen and Peggy Jordan
  • 5—Advising for Student Success by George D. Kuh
  • 6—Advising as Teaching and Learning by Drew Appleby
  • 7—Advising for Career and Life Planning by Paul Gore, Jr., and A. J. Metz
  • 21—Tools and Resources for Advisors by Pat Folsom
  • 22—Delivering One-to-One Advising: Skills and Competencies by Rusty Fox
  • Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice (2009) by Nancy Evans, Deanna Forney, Florence Guido, Lori Patton, and Kristen Renn
  • Theories applicable to academic advising featured in the NACADA Clearinghouse: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-Theory-Resource-Links.aspx

A new advisor may consider answers to the following questions helpful when developing a personal philosophy:  

  • What are my institution’s and unit’s published values, goals, and missions?
  • What is the stated purpose of academic advising at my institution and in my unit?
  • What are my strengths as an academic advisor?
  • What excites me about academic advising?
  • Do I feel an affinity toward specific types of students?
  • What topics related to academic advising interest me?
  • What research projects related to advising am I interested in pursuing?
  • What are my most developed advising skills?
  • What legal or ethical situations do I expect to encounter most often in my caseload?
  • What advising approaches do I use (or intend to apply) with students?
  • Which theories of student development do I use or wish to learn?
  • Which identity theories do I use or seek to investigate in relation to advising?
  • Which typology theories do I use in practice or plan to explore?

Perhaps most important, the advisor should be able to answer the following:

  • Why am I an academic advisor?
  • How do I make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues?
  • Do my students know their lives matter? 

In the process of journaling, as described and advocated in chapter 17, advisors document thoughts and ideas upon reflection of practice or during study that may prove useful in shaping a personal philosophy of academic advising. The length of the statement matters less than the quality of ideas and their significance to the advisor. A one page philosophy may suffice for many new advisors; others with more experience or who have developed multiple areas of interest and involvement may need multiple pages to fully convey their philosophy. A new advisor should strive to develop an initial statement by the end of their first year. All advisors should review their philosophy statement throughout their careers, adjusting it to include new insights and interests.

To get the most benefit from the effort, an advisor should share and discuss the written personal philosophy of academic advising with colleagues and administrators. Through such discussions, the advisor can hone the skills and select the experiences that sharpen the philosophy statement. Through the process of creating, updating, reviewing, and sharing the personal philosophy of academic advising, the advisor will intentionally embrace those practices and theories that will benefit students. 

David Freitag

IT Principal Analyst

Pima Community College

dafreitag@pima.edu


References

Dyer, A. N. (2007). Advisement philosophy. In Folsom, P. (Ed.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond (Monograph No. 16) (pp. 47–48). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association. 

Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2009). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Freitag, D. A. (2011). Freedom to choose: Advisor classifications and internal identities. Academic Advising Today, 34(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Freedom-to-Choose-Advisor-Classifications-and-Internal-Identities.aspx 

Gordon, V. N., Habley, W. R., & Grites, T. J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising. A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Core-values-of-academic-advising.aspx


Cite the above resource using APA style as:

Freitag, D. (2011). Creating a Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: 
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Personal-philosophy-of-academic-advising.aspx

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