Book Reviews

High-Impact Advising: A Guide for Academic Advisors, Sue Ohrablo (2018). Denver, CO: Academic Impressions, 301 pp. $54.99 ISBN978-1-948658-00-3, https://www.academicimpressions.com/product/handbook-academic-advisors/

Review by: Dr. Alicia Muhammad, James Center for Student Success and Advising, Reich College of Education, Appalachian State University, muhammada@appstate.edu

“Advising enhances learning and at its core is a locus of learning and not merely a signpost to learning” (Farr & Cunningham, 2017, p.3) is the second of six points outlined in the NACADA handbook Academic Advising Core Competencies Guide. Ohrablo (2018) offers a definition of the locus and process of learning for the professional advisor in the book, High Impact Advising: A Guide for Academic Advisors. This guidebook represents a relevant look at contemporary advising practice from the author’s vantage point, a professional advisor and advising administrator with several decades of experience working with postsecondary students and new advising professionals. In this book, Ohrablo (2018) discussed the necessity for advancing the professional practice of advising to one that is value-added for the student and academic institution. The book delivered this value-added advising practice perspective through a survey of practical and student-focused techniques useful for the novice 21st century advising professional.

Drawing from the author’s decades of experience in the field, this guide frames professional advising practices and techniques around the guiding idea that a personal philosophy of advising is central to good practice. New advisors are encouraged to critically read this guide with an eye toward the development of a personal philosophy of advising and how the articulation of a philosophy will support defining one’s locus of practice with students. The author illustrated for the reader how to move the practice of advising beyond just being a signpost to learning for the student and the advisor to defining what the learning should look like.

Contemporary and updated definitions of several student populations, how to communicate with students, and ways for the advisor to formatively assess their practice with tools, charts, checklists, and advising scenarios is specified for the reader. Renewed definitions of the traditional, adult, and online student are expressed. Each of these learners come to the higher education institution with a variety of academic, emotional, and social challenges. Relevant recommendations for serving these populations is provided in a 21st century advising context. Ohrablo (2018) guides the reader toward easily implemented strategies and practices to address the skills needed for student success around academics, work-life balance, critical thinking and communication skills, and problem-solving techniques. There is a limited discussion on virtual advising which focuses on ways to effectively provide outreach to the online student population and increasing advisor and institutional engagement.

Throughout the book the reader is encouraged to formatively assess their learning as it relates to the tips and suggestions provided. Amassed, from the start of the book to the end; are tools, charts, and checklists that summarize the main content presented in each chapter. Ohrablo (2018) weaves throughout, scenarios, mini-case studies, and reflections for the reading audience that provide multiple assessment opportunities for demonstrating mastery of the material. The technical suggestions this book provides are easily transferred from institution to institution. The language used closely focuses on institutional systems rather than specific tools. The author speaks of “degree audit” software and “student information systems” instead of identifying particular programs different campuses use in the field. The advisor is guided through this formative assessment process in effort to think about developing a philosophically driven and value-added approach to the practice of advising.

For advisors seeking a value-added perspective that focuses on equity and inclusive advising practices this edition will not serve this purpose. There are brief discussions about “difficult students” and student resiliency. These discussions could prove problematic for the novice advisor attempting to interpret some of the techniques in this book from an equity and inclusion lens. The difficult student descriptions are generalized and somewhat stereotypical of the problems many students face as they persist in the completion of their academic programs. The term “difficult students” is problematic on its face, within an equity and inclusion context. Ohrablo (2018) does a disservice to the reader in this aspect through shallow generalizations related to navigating institutional systems, interpersonal relationships between faculty and students, and student behavior. There is not enough bandwidth in this text to do the topic of equity and inclusion in advising any justice. This reviewer suggests the text, Beyond Foundations: Developing as a Master Academic Advisor (2016) edited by Grites, Miller, and Voler as an entry point for professionals seeking to work toward and improve in the development of equitable and inclusive advising practices.

This book is a good introduction for new and developing academic advising practitioners. The author’s point of view provides an approach to the philosophy of advising from a practical and easy to understand perspective. The reader will have the opportunity to reflect and formatively assess their learning of the advising concepts provided. The guidance within the text brings to bear on the importance of providing a value-added advising experience for the student that supports their growth and development within the postsecondary institution. A basic conceptual, informational, and relational framework for advising is presented here. The reader will come away from this book with the tools to increase their repertoire of advising skills and techniques to support student success.

 

References

Farr, T., & Cunningham, L. (Eds.). (2017). Academic advising core competencies guide. Manhattan, KS: NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Grites, T. J., Miller, M. A., & Voler, J. G. (2016). Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ohrablo, S. (2018). High-impact advising: A guide for academic advisors. Denver, CO: Academic Impressions.

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