Scholarly Communications Project



Melissa L. Daller

Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in Education


Student Personnel Services and Counseling


Elizabeth G. Creamer, Chair
Don G. Creamer
Delores W. Scott

April 23, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


Academic advising has undergone tremendous changes since its origin in higher education. The notion of faculty performing clerical tasks in order to aid students strictly in academics has been challenged. Today, academic advising is considered one of the best vehicles for promoting intellectual, personal, and social development of students. It is a service that links studentsí academic and personal worlds and, hence promotes holistic development. However, little is known about professional advisors, specifically to what extent professional advisors use an approach to advising that can be characterized as developmental. The purpose of this study was to observe and identify the behaviors that occur during academic advising sessions between professional academic advisors and students, and compare these behaviors to the models and definitions of developmental advising proposed in the literature. Qualitative research methods, including observations and interviews, were employed. Ten advisors were observed in 35 actual advising sessions in an effort to identify advising behaviors, which were later used to develop and define advising styles. In addition, each advisor was interviewed about his or her philosophy of advising. Results of the study found that the developmental-prescriptive continuum does not accurately reflect actual advising practice. Most advisorís style reflected a mix of developmental and prescriptive behaviors. However, the characteristics of advising proposed in the literature (e.g.,content, personalization, and decision-making) were useful in identifying and defining new advising styles. Another important finding dealt with personalization. While most advisors stated students are different and have different needs, and some advisors were observed to personalize the advising session, none of the advisors were observed to alter their style in accordance with studentsí differences. This suggests there may be a difference between personalization and individualization of advising. Recommendations for practice include assessment of advisors behaviors and philosophies in addition to student perceptions. Also, there is a need to develop new models of advising. The data from this study recommend the development of an advising model that considers the importance of the advisor-advisee relationship that is dynamic and that reflects stages or phases of advising instead of distinct advising styles. The information gathered from this study lends itself to further research about the advising styles used with specialized student populations, suggesting the need for individualization as well as personalization of advising.

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