Adult Education Advising Guidelines

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1 Adult Education Advising Guidelines Adapted for Hopelink Adult Education purposes from the University of Maine Advisor s Handbook Introduction Good advising is more than meeting with students once a quarter. But how much more? What are reasonable and appropriate expectations for students to have of their advisors? And what should advisors expect of their students? Answers to these questions depend partly on circumstances, and therefore require the judgment of the advisor. There are, nevertheless, a few guidelines that help to define most good advisor/student relationships. Student Expectations of Advisors There are three fundamental expectations that all students are entitled to have of their advisors: 1) To be available Students need to be able to see their advisors as needed throughout the quarter. Advisors should communicate available meeting times and stick to them. This needs to be done with student schedules in mind. It is not reasonable to expect a student to cut a class to accommodate advising meetings. Advisors should also be reachable through voice mail and electronic mail, and should respond to messages within one working day. Advisors should also set-up with their students a method allowing them to make appointments. Nothing is more frustrating that not being able to find an advisor or make an appointment. 2) To be knowledgeable Students have the right to expect their advisors to give them accurate information about Hopelink program requirements, about procedures, about policies, and about available resources. Few advisors can recall from memory everything needed to answer every question accurately and fully, but EVERY advisor should know where to find accurate information. The Hopelink website has good information about Hopelink services. The Hopelink Adult Education website has detailed information about ESL and GED programs. One of the best skills an advisor can have is the ability to research and perform Google searches and to teach students how to search for information themselves. 1

2 3) To care Every student has the right to be treated by his or her advisor in a respectful, caring, considerate manner. Information can be dispensed in many ways, but advice can only be given through an interactive process in which the goals, abilities, successes and shortcomings of the advisee are known and respected. Good advisors are good listeners who take the time to get to know their advisees. The legitimate expectations students have of their advisors are many, but there ARE a few expectations that some students may have that are unreasonable. Both advisors and students need to be clear about these limits. 1. Advisors are not personal counselors. Students should not expect their advisors to help them sort out personal problems. Advisors are not trained to help with these situations, though they can share relevant resources with students. 2. Advisors are not tutors. Students should not expect their advisors to give supplemental instruction. For example, meetings should not become all about providing homework help or working on reading and writing. Advisors can refer students to the appropriate Hopelink staff person if students express interest in supplemental instruction. 3. Advisors are friendly, but should not be expected to be pals. Students should respect the fact that advisors are busy people whose time is important; they should not plan to drop in on their advisor, unless they have been invited to do so. Advisor Expectations of Students Students owe it to themselves and their advisors to accept their share of the responsibility for developing a good advisor/student relationship. Here are a few of the things advisors should expect of their students. 1. Expect them to learn as much as possible about program requirements that affect them. Students should have class syllabi and other important class documents on hand. 2. Expect your students to prepare for each visit by making a list of issues they want to discuss. 3. Expect your students to make advising appointments and keep them: what applies to the advisor here also applies to the student. 2

3 Objectives of Advising Being available, knowledgeable, and caring are essential qualities of good advisors but they are not the outcomes we seek to achieve through advising. Listed below are some of the more important objectives of advising. 1) To help students set education and career goals program consistent with their interests and abilities. Students may unknowingly establish career goals likely to conflict with their desired lifestyle: students who dislike science may plan careers in medicine, or those who dislike office work may plan to become accountants. Students often do not know the kind of preparation required for a particular career, or very much about the day-to-day work in a given profession. Good advising gently helps students to bring career aspirations into workable alignment with their aptitudes and lifestyle goals, and to plan their programs accordingly. Referrals to the Hopelink Employment Program are also very helpful in this area. 2) To assist students with resumes, cover letters, online job applications, and other documents/processes related to job search. 3) To help students monitor and evaluate their progress. Advisors need to explain all aspects of program requirements accurately and clearly, and to teach students how to monitor and evaluate their own progress towards program completion. Advisors must also make clear that the students themselves are ultimately responsible for seeing to it that all requirements are met in a timely manner. 4) To refer students to other Hopelink services as needed. The best advisors know when and how to refer students to specialists for specific assistance. Many problems presented by advisees are beyond the domain of the advisor: intensive academic assistance, personal problems with identity or relationships, financial difficulties, dissatisfaction with roommates or other aspects of living arrangements, legal problems, health concerns, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. Advisors need to be alert for the signs of stress, and to be gently intrusive enough to identify broadly the nature of the problem; then the advisor needs to make the appropriate referral, even making the appointment while the student is in the office (but never without the student s full knowledge and approval). Do not give way to the temptation to be an amateur psychologist: a careless or misplaced remark can cause deep and lasting wounds. The Adult Education supervisor is available daily to help make referrals or provide consultation on how to best handle an issue with a student. 3

4 5) To help students to understand Hopelink policies and procedures. Few experiences are more frustrating than to be sent from place to place to place to carry out some minor administrative task. For example, if students are enrolling in the Hopelink Employment Program, they will need to show proof of income and fill out other forms. Advisors can save students hours of aggravation by explaining policies and procedures. Spending a few moments on the phone or sending an to the correct department in Hopelink or the Adult Education Supervisor before a student leaves can expedite their interaction with Hopelink bureaucracy. 6) To help students understand the nature and purpose of education. This is not a responsibility students typically expect of advisors, but that makes it no less important. Beginning students, especially, may fail to appreciate the enormous increase in personal initiative and responsibility demanded of students in an educational environment. The need to become active participants in their own education may not be apparent to them. Indeed, they may not understand the concept. Some students see education only as listening to lectures, following rules, and memorizing information. Advisors need to discuss with their students the role general education plays in developing basic communication skills and other soft skill such as teamwork, sharpening critical thinking skills, gaining awareness of cultural differences, and expanding one s view of the world. Tips for Advisors Here are a few simple techniques advisors can use to build effective advising relationships. 1) Learn your students names, and use them when you talk to them. If someone never calls you by name, you are apt to suspect that he or she cannot recall exactly who you are. 2) Go over with your students what they should expect from you and what you expect from them at an early meeting. 3) Take a few moments to engage in general conversation whenever a student comes to see you. Smile. Make eye contact. Ask how things are going. The student may be looking for an opportunity to bring up something difficult to address immediately. 4) Do not be too efficient in dealing with the issues your students bring to you; students may gain the impression that you are eager to be rid of them. Make a few confidential notes for your file after each visit with a student. What were the issues discussed? What follow-up is needed? Did you refer the student to any other Hopelink services or suggest some specific action? Review the file that you keep on each student just prior to the student s next visit. Ask 4

5 whether the issue discussed during the previous visit was resolved. Ask if the student actually followed through on any referrals you made. 5) Student records are kept by Hopelink to facilitate the educational and career development of students. Staff and volunteers may also keep informal records relating to their functional responsibilities with individual students. A Federal law, the Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, affords students certain rights concerning their education records. Students have the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from their records. Be sure to respect each student s confidentiality. 6) Be a pro-active advisor. Students who do not contact their advisors often are not those who need little advice. Failure to meet with an advisor is apt to be a sign of impending or current difficulty rather than of mature self-reliance. Advisors should contact these individuals once or two times maximum by phone, by , or by a hand written note. Engaging them in a dialogue about their experiences at Hopelink is an essential first step to progress. 7) Learn about advising techniques and best practices by staying up to date on current research. The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) is a great resource: 8) As a guide for your advising work, follow the simple steps disarm, discover, dream, design, deliver, don t settle as outlined by Appreciative Advising. 5

6 9) Follow these tips from Julie O Brien & Niall Hartnett at Western Illinois University. See full text here 1. Demonstrate unconditional positive regard. This should occur throughout the advising session and be apparent in your basic manner and behavior around the student. You want to project the assumption that you authentically accept the student for who he or she is without judgment of their character, actions or what they say. You can do this both with body language and in the manner you speak to the student: Body Language Be open and welcoming to student: face them as much as possible with as much eyecontact as possible. Keep your posture relaxed and open: show you are attentive but not domineering, relaxed but not remote. Sitting straight towards the student with your hands clasped in front of you ready to express your point of view is good rather than leaning in or away from the student! Use appropriate facial expressions and affirmative head nods. Avoid nervous or bored gestures and fight off external distractions. If you do have to spend time with a document or your computer, acknowledge that with the student verbally so they don t feel like you ve stopped focusing on them! Speaking Style Your speaking style needs to build good will and credibility with the student whilst projecting an honest and heartfelt sincerity. Be prepared to sympathize verbally with the student and affirm every struggle they disclose. Be reassuring and encouraging while you question. Try to stick to questions first while you formulate your advice that is reflective of what they have expressed so your advice will be authentic. Try and keep it conversational and natural and this will make the student less defensive. You need to affirm to the student that you accept him/her despite their failings or their own perceived flaws. 2. Practice active listening. Let your advisees tell their story first; do not interrupt their sentences. Relax and try not to give advisees the impression you want to jump right in and talk. Appreciate the emotion, e.g. voice intonation and body language, behind your advisees' words. Constantly check your understanding of what you hear, not what you want to hear. Intermittently respond to your advisees with uh-huh, yes-s-s, I see. Ask clarifying or continuing questions to demonstrate to your advisees that you are involved in what they're saying. Constantly check to see if your advisees want to comment or respond to what you have previously said to them. Take notes, if necessary, where certain facts and data are important but try to limit the amount you are writing until after the appointment. 6

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