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Nicola Andrew and Ruth Whittaker Promoting individualism and retaining identity in mass higher education: academic advising for the 21st Century
Introduction The United Kingdom (UK) National Union of Students (NUS 2011) report that personal academic advising is seen by many students as the cornerstone of academic progression and highlights a general UK wide dissatisfaction with both the quality and quantity. The NUS maintain that there is a clear divide between institutional provision and student expectation.
Introduction In March (2012), a consultation exercise undertaken by Glasgow Caledonian University identified the dimensions and process of academic advising across the institution. The consultation involved key academic and support staff working in partnership with the University Student Association. The outcome and output emerged as a new institutional standard for practice.
Personalising the student experience The ‘Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the ‘What Works? Student Retention and Success programme’ report (Thomas 2012) identifies ‘belonging’ as a key theme in student support, suggesting that it is closely aligned with concepts of academic and social engagement. At the level of the individual, belonging recognises; ‘students’ subjective feelings of relatedness or connectedness to the institution’ (p12). Belonging in institutional terms may be arrived at through the students’ sense of being ‘accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others’ (Goodenow 1993 p25).
Personalising the student experience Social and personal transition is highlighted in the literature (Whittaker, 2008). Blic et al (2011) suggest that by broadening out the literature to include social identity dimensions and the way that these dimensions influence student learning. Andrew et al (2007, 2009, 2011) explored the construction and sustainability of undergraduate nursing communities through an adaptation of the Senses Framework (Nolan et al 2002, 2004). Six senses are identified: security; continuity; belonging; purpose; achievement and significance Relationships within the context of care and service delivery security; continuity; belonging; purpose; achievement and significance
Personalising the student experience The Senses Framework is linked to respect for personhood, acknowledging that the individual is at the center of a complex network of relationships with others. All senses speak to the need to be recognised as an individual and valued for your contribution in academic, social and professional arenas. Achieving this in a system of mass higher education is a challenge. Academic advising offers the opportunity for the institution do just this and provide continuous personalised engagement throughout the student lifecycle.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising The ‘what works’ report (Thomas 2012) found that students may not automatically engage with the institution, recognise the value of engagement, or have the immediate ability to engage. Institutions should provide a range of opportunities for engagement and these should be broadly reflective of their distinctive student population. Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) operates an inclusive approach to learning rather than only targeting support of ‘at risk groups’. The university has a strong social mission and is committed to access to higher education regardless of economic or social background.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising GCU has a commitment to access and inclusion and an excellent track record of widening participation, actively recruiting students from socially and economically disadvantaged communities (34%), successfully engaging those who are ‘first in family’ (73%), mature students (49%) and those who transition and articulate from the college sector (18%).
Developing an institutional view of academic advising GCU is committed to improving retention especially that of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds; care leavers and articulating students. There is up to a five percent gap between the progression of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and those that are not. This is a gap that the university actively seeks to address.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising In 2012, an institutional consultation exercise undertaken by GCU engaged a range of individuals from Academic Schools, Support Departments and the University Student Association. They were asked to reflect and comment on the purpose of advising and role of the advisor. The resulting findings re-enforced the primary purpose of the advising meeting as a dialogue between student and advisor about academic performance, however the need to broaden the
definition of advising was identified.
GCU PPACT Standard Lines (2010) maintains that the most effective form of student support is ‘concentrated and integrated; an approach that does not distinguish between academic and non academic units’ (p9). The GCU PPACT Standard Personal Professional, Academically informed Consolidated Transitional
GCU Academic Advising (Staff Pack) THE GCU PPACT Standard- (Personal, Professional, Academically informed, Consolidated, Transitional)
grounded in refection
Professional Transitional completed action plan
The GCU PPACT Standard
career planning and employability
Academically informed feedback feedforward
The new standard is focused on student engagement and staff satisfaction within the wider context of the transition and academic support framework. It spans the student lifecycle (including key aspects of pre-entry) and encompasses academic, social and professional domains. It is underpinned by collaborative, student centered strategies designed to build academic, personal and professional growth