Academic advising is a developmental process in which students are provided with support in clarifying their academic, career and life goals, developing plans to achieve these goals, and evaluating their own progress. Academic advising is also a process in which students are empowered to think critically, explore available options, and take personal responsibility for decision-making with the guidance of their teachers and academic advisers. Hurley (2007) offers 10 suggestions for the practical application of the developmental model when advising students:

10 Ways to Promote Personal Growth

  • Get personal – Take time to get to know students as individuals before engaging in academic planning.
  • Practice active listening – Encourage students to explain or clarify the reasoning behind academic decisions.
  • Treat advising as an ongoing conversation – Take good notes and review them before each subsequent advising appointment.
  • Avoid the temptation to decide – Advisers can help guide students through the decision making process, but should avoid making decisions for them.
  • Make silence an ally – Allow for periods of silence in advising as the student processes new information or ponders how much to disclose.
  • Challenge misconceptions – Students may sometimes arrive at decisions without adequate consideration of alternatives, and by challenging them to examine these decisions further, the advisers help them to make more deliberate choices and develop intellectually.
  • Make students active partners in the advising process – Students should understand that advising is not simply a body of information to be imparted but an interactive process between adviser and advisee.
  • Challenge and support – Students should be encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their own academic planning with varying degrees of advising support over time.
  • Make meaning out of the curriculum – When students understand the reasoning behind degree requirements, they often become less resistant and more invested.
  • Take a holistic approach – A student’s life beyond the classroom provides the context within which intellectual and academic development occurs, and by being aware of this context, advisers are better able to understand their advisees’ actions and to help them make sound academic decisions.

Listening and Interviewing Skills

When advising advisees who are not hesitant or unsure about what they think or feel, effective listening and interviewing skills (Peggy A. Jordan, 2007) may be helpful to elicit responses from them:

  • Active listening – Advisers may be tempted to answer the students’ question before the advisee has completely stated it. The student must be allowed to finish talking, even if the adviser thinks he / she has heard the same story from other students
  • Clarifying questions – Asking questions is part of the listening process. Advisers may put students’ words, tone, gestures and body language together to guess at the meaning of the communication exchange, but this is only a guess until the adviser checks his / her understanding with the student.
  • Interviewing – Open-ended questions may elicit the best information and help move the conference forward.

When advisers learn to be skillful interviewers with abilities in different kinds of inquiry and in unhurried listening, they offer students the opportunity to grow conceptually and eventually evaluate circumstances to make their own decisions.


Mark Hurley (2007). “Tips for Applying Concepts of Developmental Advising in Practice”. In The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond, ed. Pat Folsom and Ban Chamberlain (Kansas: National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), 2007), p.39-40.

Peggy A Jordan (2007). “Building Effective Communication through Listening, Interviewing, and Referral”. In The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond, ed. Pat Folsom and Ban Chamberlain (Kansas: National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), 2007), p.83-85.