In the Classroom

Student-Centered Advising Approach for Academic Success

We know that as teachers, we often wear so many different hats in the classroom, many of which have nothing to do with the curriculum we are tasked to teach. Sometimes it is difficult to juggle all of this and many in education are struggling to find a way to balance it all. The key to all of it (and it’s not a cure-all, but it helps with the load) is focusing on student-centered advising.

What is Student-Centered Advising?

Student-centered advising emerges as a non-judgmental strategy aimed at assisting students in setting and achieving their educational objectives. This approach ensures students remain engaged, manage their time effectively, and cultivate a sense of accomplishment in their learning journey.

At its core, student-centered advising encourages educators to adopt roles of mentorship rather than judgment or disciplinary actions. By allocating time during classes or designated sessions, educators can engage with students on their challenges, guiding them towards solutions. This setup not only reinforces the educator’s supportive role but also respects the student’s autonomy by setting boundaries for these interactions.

The essence of student-centered advising seamlessly integrates into a student-led learning environment, facilitating personalized interactions without detracting from the collective classroom time. This model fosters self-management and goal-setting skills among students, providing them with a roadmap to success, supported by the educational community when direct paths seem elusive.

This happens much more naturally in a student-led classroom as the entire basis for this form of teaching is that you can have individualized time with every student in your classroom without it taking away from what little time you have with them each day. It’s naturally “worked in” to the flow of the classroom.

Because of this model, students are also taught how to manage their time and set goals for themselves as well as at least two steps they can take to achieve those things, if possible. If it’s not possible, then there is always help from teachers and staff around them to show them where they can find that assistance.

Quick Wins with Student Centered Advising in the K-12 Classroom

What are the benefits of student-centered advising?

As a teacher, one benefit to student-centered advising is that it helps teach us that we should always be setting our students up for success. Whether they are in school or not, the skills you can impart to them while they’re with you will help mold their lives. This way, when they’re adults and have families of their own, they will look back on their schooling and remember the patience, kindness, and resources that were offered to them along the way.

Student-centered advising shows students the importance of setting goals for themselves as well as how to accomplish those goals. It is a natural extension of project-based learning where it’s not just about passing a test or getting into college, but the actual day-to-day processes of reaching those goals. They understand that they need to be working hard and do well in school so that they can do well on tests, get into college, and later, have a successful career.

Adopting a student-centered approach to advising cultivates a culture where success is not solely academic but also personal and professional. It instills in students the importance of goal setting and the methodologies to achieve them, echoing the principles of project-based learning. Furthermore, it empowers students to proactively address their challenges, seek necessary resources, and persevere.

The holistic nature of student-centered advising not only emphasizes academic achievement but also prioritizes students’ well-being. This paradigm shift from traditional teaching methods allows educators to make a profound impact on students’ futures, shaping them into resilient and independent individuals.

What does student-centered advising look like?

The best way to do student-centered advising is in a non-judgmental atmosphere. There should be no shame in their voice when asking for help, and there should never be any anger or frustration associated with the dialogue between them and their advisor. There should also be an equal amount of positive reinforcement as well so that they know all actions are equally valuable.

Student-centered advising comes in all shapes and forms, but you never want to be the sole person responsible for this form of teaching. If possible, try to pass it off to another teacher or staff member so that you aren’t bogged down with extra work because you are already busy enough as is.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to make it work, but there are always ways to make sure you can successfully help your student. It’s all about finding what works for them and making sure they know that you’re here for them whenever they need it.

There are many benefits to student-centered advising, but the most important one is that students learn that their academics are important, but so is their welfare. In a more traditional model of teaching, this is often pushed by the wayside (except for the students who stand out by needing this) because we simply don’t have the time. Fortunately, the learner-centered model helps change this.

How can you apply student-centered advising to your classroom?

Creating a non-judgmental and supportive environment is crucial for effective student-centered advising. This atmosphere should encourage open communication, free from fear of retribution or negativity while balancing constructive feedback.

While the concept of student-centered advising is universal, its implementation can vary. Delegation among the advising team and collaboration with professional advisors can alleviate the workload, ensuring a sustainable model for educators already navigating a demanding schedule.

Challenges are inherent in any educational endeavor, and student-centered advising is no exception. Issues such as maintaining student trust, addressing non-academic problems, and managing increased administrative tasks can arise. However, these challenges can be navigated with thoughtful preparation, transparent communication, and a commitment to students’ holistic development.

Consider thinking about:

Student-centered advising comes from the philosophy that every student should have a successful experience. It’s not just about helping them pass their tests and get into college, but it’s also about making sure they have the resources to make a successful career later on in life.

Student-centered advising revolves around the idea of you being a guide for your students instead of a professor or a therapist. You want to be there for each student when they need help along the way, but you also want to make sure they know how to ask questions in the future when they’re in need.

This form of teaching is beneficial because it helps students learn how to be proactive with their problems. They can look for outside resources if they have a problem and never give up on themselves. They’re taught that we believe in them, and they know that we care about what happens to them as individuals.

There are many benefits to student-centered advising, but the most important one is that students learn that their academics are important, but so is their welfare. In a more traditional model of teaching, this often gets pushed aside because of a lack of time, but the learner-centered model helps change that.

The Challenges of Student-Centered Advising

There will always be challenges when it comes to teaching in any form. That being said, there are some very specific issues related to student-centered advising that you must be prepared for to make it work successfully. For instance:

  • Students will lose trust if you don’t follow through on your promises. It might take time for them to realize that this doesn’t reflect poorly on their worth, but this is still a very real risk.
  • Students who are struggling may not have the initiative to seek out answers on their own, so you must be diligent about keeping them accountable and making sure they’re progressing as expected.
  • Some students may approach you with problems that go beyond the scope of your class, but those issues can complicate things if they’re not dealt with properly.
  • Your workload will increase if you make the switch to student-centered advising. You’ll have more students’ grades, test scores, and other information for each of them that you track personally. That might mean that grading your papers is a slower process than it used to be.

That being said, these challenges are manageable when you take the time to properly prepare for them. For instance, if you know students might fear trusting in your abilities to help them, make sure they understand that their grade is based on much more than just one assignment or test (that can be stressful). You’ll also need to keep an open dialogue with students and be transparent about what’s expected of them.

The Positive Effects of Well-Run Student-Centered Advising

The advantages of implementing this approach become evident shortly after its introduction. Specifically:

  • Students will develop a greater sense of ease in seeking assistance when necessary, bolstered by the supportive environment fostered by academic advisors.
  • Through personalized academic advising, students remain aligned with their educational goals, enhancing their performance in your courses.
  • Educators, freed from the burdens of extensive paperwork by the advising center, can dedicate more time to instructional activities, streamlining the grading process.
  • The likelihood of students pursuing higher education and achieving success beyond high school increases, a testament to the foundational support provided during their academic careers.

However, the transition to student-centered advising may present initial challenges. Both faculty advisors and students may experience a period of adjustment to the new focus and philosophy. Patience is essential during this phase, as the shift towards a more student-centered approach has the potential to significantly alter students’ academic and personal trajectories for the better.

This educational strategy is instrumental in teaching students to proactively address challenges, encouraging them to seek external resources and maintain persistence. The message is clear: the academic community believes in their potential and is invested in their individual success.

Moreover, student-centered advising plays a crucial role in enhancing student retention rates, a critical concern for many institutions. The failure to graduate often stems from a cumulation of minor setbacks rather than a single, insurmountable barrier. By maintaining consistent guidance and support through advising appointments and educational planning, this model ensures students remain engaged and supported throughout their journey, addressing their academic and personal needs at each step.

Incorporating academic advisement into the curriculum represents a comprehensive commitment to fostering student success, academic exploration, and personal growth. It emphasizes the importance of educational goals, critical thinking, and meaningful connections within the learning community. Through a holistic approach that spans from course registration to career planning, advisors provide a scaffold that empowers students to navigate the complexities of their academic and future professional lives. 

This partnership between students and their advisors, whether through face-to-face meetings or virtual appointments, reinforces the educational experience as a collaborative, dynamic process tailored to individual aspirations and needs.

Are you an actual Academic Advisor?

In some cases, schools are fortunate enough to have actual academic advisors on staff, and this concept is not lost on them. As an academic advisor, your role is pivotal in guiding your current student load, whether that’s K-12 or undergraduate students, through their educational journey, ensuring their academic plans are aligned with their career aspirations and academic interests. Begin by scheduling advising appointments for both new and current students, utilizing these sessions to conduct a comprehensive academic evaluation.

This evaluation should consider the student’s needs, interests, and academic requirements for their chosen path, whether it involves students’ needs through student support services or hosting an advising appointment to help those pursuing bachelor’s degrees, certificate programs, or exploring exploratory areas for undecided students. 

Engage in face-to-face meetings or virtual appointments to establish a rapport, emphasizing a student-centered approach that prioritizes their learning experiences and professional development. Facilitate connections or face meeting opportunities with a faculty advisor, peer mentors, or co-op coordinators to enhance the advising community’s support network, ensuring students have access to academic support services that cater to their learning process and academic success.

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Moreover, focus on integrating transfer students and new students into the academic community by addressing their unique academic needs and easing their transition. This involves providing detailed information on course registration, academic goals, and the learning center resources, fostering a supportive environment for student development. Encourage students to participate in small groups and educational experiences that promote critical thinking and communication skills. 

By maintaining up-to-date contact information and collaborating with program coordinators, you can offer a cohesive support system that aids in the advising process. Additionally, guide students towards meaningful learning opportunities such as co-op programs, which align with their academic interests and career path, reinforcing the importance of a comprehensive education that extends beyond the classroom to include real-world applications and professional readiness.

The Transformative Impact of Student-Centered Advising

The adoption of student-centered advising holds the promise of significant positive outcomes. Students feel more empowered to seek help, stay on track with their educational and career goals, and ultimately, succeed in their academic and professional endeavors. This approach fosters a more engaged learning experience, promotes retention, and supports students through their educational journey toward achieving their academic and career aspirations.

By shifting towards a learner-centered advising model, educators not only facilitate a more enriching college experience but also contribute to the cultivation of a resilient, independent, and well-rounded individual ready to navigate the complexities of life beyond academia.

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After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at studentcenteredworld.com/about

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