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Departmental, Advising, Patterns, need, mentoring, faculty, measure, improve, improvements


Executive Summary: Departmental/college advising is coming to occupy one of the several spotlights directed by feedback from students and by higher education accountability. For several years, alumni have been particularly critical of departmental advising. This year, advising has been put forward as one accountability measure and as one means to enhance performance on several others. To contextualize discussions of departmental advising and to provide a first round of input from departments, the chairs or advisors of thirty departments/colleges described their advising practices and gave their input regarding future directions for advising, during Fall, 1997. Departments' advising practices are tremendously varied. The variety is especially underlined by the diverse comments--recorded verbatim in Appendix A: Exhibits 1 through 5--which show that departments not only have different ways of doing advising, but have fundamentally different definitions of advising. The number of students who need to be served, the types of advising needs students have, who does the advising, whether or not formal plans of study are developed, and the number of advising contacts made by departmental advisors all vary widely. More specifically: • In most cases, students arrive at a department having decided on the major, but over one- fourth of departments say half or more of their students need advising on whether or not to enter their major. • While two-thirds of departments accept all or most applicants for the major, advisors in the other third need to deal with a selection process that refuses at least five percent of applicants. • Half of departments develop a written plan of study with all or most students at the time of major declaration. The other half do so with few or none of their students. • While the most common report is that students make about one advising contact per quarter during their junior and senior years in the major, some departments report only one per year while others report six or more per year. • Just under one-third of departments have staff do most pre-major advising and some later advising. Also just under one-third have the department chair do advising or have the chair and faculty split advising about half and half. A bit over one-third have faculty do all or most advising. • Students are more satisfied with advising in departments where staff do more of the advising. Departmental advisors and also a number of other advisors offered insights as to how faculty are involved in advising, whether and how to involve them more, and whether or not departmental advising could be included in the university's accountability measures. These comments and suggestions are included verbatim in the report. One model of advising for larger departments emerges from these comments: 1) A staff advisor does early advising-- including pre-major and declaration of the major--and perhaps the senior evaluation as well; 2) Faculty provide "specialized" advising, requiring knowledge specific to the field-- including career planning and preparation for graduate school. When asked about faculty mentoring models, opinion varied widely, with 12 of 30 departments favoring faculty involvement in freshman interest groups, four favoring mentoring as service, seven rejecting both approaches, and seven neutral or undecided. When asked whether departmental advising should be included in Western's accountability measures, most departments said it is possible and even desirable, but that doing so would be complex and risks interfering with the quality of the effort by inserting a bureaucratic nuisance factor. One possible approach may be to establish a set of critical advising stages and record whether each Western student receives advising at each stage.




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Counseling in higher education--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Evaluation

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1998-01






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