Survey Report: Where Your Institution May be Missing Opportunities to Improve Academic Advising

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In November 2011, Academic Impressions surveyed colleges and universities on their practices in assessing academic advisors. 73 institutions responded, and of those who responded, 57 percent employ both faculty and professional advisors, 24 percent use only faculty advisors, and 19 percent use only professional advisors.

The aggregated results from the survey reveal some significant issues.

When asked what methods they were using to assess the effectiveness of academic advising, respondents indicated:

Survey Report: Assessing Academic Advising

Note that 21 percent – over one fifth – of respondents have no system in place for assessing advising. And though 63 percent are collecting student evaluations, a far smaller percentage are using the data they collect to provide training or other concrete efforts to improve the quality of academic advising:

Survey Report: How advising assessment data is used

Most institutions are collecting some evaluative data, but few institutions are using that data to improve advising programs and practices. In fact, 61% of institutions surveyed do not use assessment data to reward and recognize effective advising, and nearly half do not use it to inform training for academic or faculty advisors. Lisa Wexler, conference director with Academic Impressions, notes that this disparity in results suggests that what data is being collected is likely not being used to improve individual advisor performance.

The research indicates that a quality relationship with a faculty or staff member outside of the classroom is critical to the success of the student.

“Therefore, if our limited assessment data is not being used to inform training and improvement of academic advisors, this represents a significant missed opportunity.”
Lisa Wexler, Academic Impressions

Assessing and Training Academic Advisors: Models to Look to

However, a growing number of institutions who have made substantial investments in the assessment and improvement of academic advising – particularly for at-risk students – provide early models of where gains can be made.

At Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Tom Grites leads a program in which the institution awards annual grantsto fund research on faculty advising. The stipend is awarded to applicants who are highly effective advisors, who then conduct their research through the year. “This approach recognizes good advising and contributes to this fledgling field of research on faculty advising,” Wexler notes, adding that although 81 percent of the institutions responding to the Academic Impressions survey used faculty advisors, there’s still little research published or readily available on faculty advising (with a few noted exceptions).

Besides the practice of offering a stipend, find ways to support the establishment of a faculty learning community or community of practice around faculty advising. This also positions your institution as a go-to model for others hoping to improve.

As another example, Guilford College created a system for assessing faculty advising, and the assessment was developed with input from the faculty. At Guilford, faculty include their individual advising assessments in their tenure portfolio.

At many institutions, improvement of faculty advising is actually disincentivized, because excellence in faculty advising has little impact on faculty evaluation. And with an already full workload, faculty have to choose where they invest voluntary efforts and discretionary time with some care. If these assessments can meet a requirement in the tenure and promotion process, then you are able to incentivize and reward quality advising — and establish the rationale and buy-in for training for faculty advisors.