Relevance to Educational Leadership


There are numerous factors that may affect a student’s decision to remain in school. Educational leaders and advisors have to know the basics of such decisions in order to influence and control an educational process and make the necessary attempts in case some improvements are required. Due to the fact that the role of teachers and advisors is crucial in a student’s life (Young-Jones Burt, Dixon, & Hawthorne, 2013), the proposed study may be defined as relevant to higher education as it touches upon such issues as students’ perceptions of their male and female advisors, the quality of student-advisor relations, and the level of knowledge that student can get under particular conditions. Academic advising is characterized by a positive impact on student retention (Swecker, Fiflot, & Searby, 2013). Leaders can utilize the offered study as a chance to comprehend what students want to get from their advisors, what kind of help is expected, and even what time frames should be met to satisfy students’ needs. There are four main domains that are analyzed in the study: the advising session, advocacy/accountability for student welfare, knowledge, and availability (Harrison, 2012; 2014). Each factor has its impact on an educational process and student’s perception of an advising process. Educational leaders can study these factors to understand if there is something that has to be improved and to clarify the approaches that can be used.

Academic advising is considered to be a critical element in the student experience and the way of how students can make decisions, evaluate their possibilities, and identify their perspectives (Drake, 2011). Leadership in higher education is a complicated and thorough process because many activities have to be taken, various decisions should be made, and possible outcomes have to be analyzed. There are many colleges and universities that strive to retain students and provide them with the best conditions for education and academic advertising (Harper, 2012; Wilson et al., 2011). Academic advisors aim at building positive relationships with their students, providing them with the required portion of information, and choosing the best methods to promote retention and success of their students and institutions.

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The current study helps advisors understand what students want to get from their advisors and what students actually get from an advising process. The comparison of the results should underline the differences and possible implications of the study. There are several ways of how leaders in higher education can utilize the study and improve the students’ perceptions of their academic advisors. First, it is necessary to clarify the essence of leadership, its concepts, and theories that are applicable to higher education. Leadership is one of the abilities that can be developed by a person to influence a group of people toward achieving the goals set (Poetert, 2011). In high education, the idea of distributed leadership has been developed to imply the grounds for the relations between formal leadership and organizational performance that can be developed in colleges and universities (Harris, 2013). The current study introduces the conditions under which students cooperate with their advisors, and leaders can identify the positive and negative aspects of the chosen advising methods. It is possible to apply trait and behavioral theories of leadership and explain how such issues as personal ambitions, self-confidence, honesty, self-monitoring, and intelligence can improve educational and advising processes and involve more students and advisors.

The development of the sphere of education depends on the work of its leaders. At the same time, advisors have to demonstrate their leading skills to guide students, help them, and motivate in regards to the expectations set by their institutions. Advisors should meet the requirements set by their leaders and follow the instructions that guide their work. They have to perform a considerable portion of work, follow the guidelines, and remind the uniqueness of every student. The current study should help to identify the weak and strong aspects of academic advising offered by males and females and rely on the opinions about advisors offered by students as one the main participants in an educational and advising process.

Brief Review of Literature

The quality of academic advising is not a new topic for discussions. The current trends in the literature about academic advising have not been removed considerably during the last ten years when the worth of academic advising was proved. Many researchers continue investigating this issue to clarify if it is possible to improve the conditions under which students have to study and be advised, develop relations with their advisors, and set certain personal and academic goals that have to be achieved (Drake, 2011; Kendricks, Nedunuri, & Arment, 2013). The study that is chosen is quantitative comparative descriptive; therefore, it is possible to consider the studies of the same type and observe the aims and results of the work done in order to choose the most applicable and effective methods. For example, the investigations by Drake (2011) remind us about the importance of academic advising and the necessity to create professional relations between advisors and students paying more attention to some personal traits and expectations. The evaluation of interests and abilities plays a very important role in academic advising (Drake, 2011), and students, as well as advisors and any leader, should understand how to use personal skills and dreams to succeed in academic advising and improve the results of retention and persistence.

The comparison study (Wilson et al., 2011) can be also used as the foundation to for the dissertation, not because of the same methods being used or the same gender differences being discussed but because of the possibility to comprehend that academic advising is one of the factors that determine a student’s desire to continue studying. Retention should not be identified only as the goal for all African American institutions to be achieved. Retention should be the practice students want to take personally, and academic advising can be used as one of the methods that may promote retention. Research literature about the advising styles that are preferred by female and male advisors can be used to create a background for the current study and clarify if the opinions left by students may be prejudiced by some factors.

The historical development of such concept as academic advising can become a solid foundation for current trends in the evaluation and analysis of an advising practice and its impact on students’ satisfaction in education and cooperation with tutors, mentors, and advisors. The results of the past investigations, the application of leadership theories, and the connection between student retention and advising can be used to explain how students accept and comprehend the advising styles offered by male and female advisors. There are many forces that can shape the existing system of education including the latest achievements in political, social, and economic spheres (Wilson et al., 2011). To cover the worth and peculiarities of academic advising at HBCUs, researchers develop qualitative and quantitative studies and compare the approaches approved at different HBCUs (Holmes, White, & Colley-Doles, 2014; Reynolds, Fisher, & Cavil, 2012). The transformations in the system of higher education could be observed in the past three centuries. Still, the most evident changes could be dated from the middle of the last century, when tutors neglected the importance to follow institutional requirements only and started paying more attention to students’ personal needs, goals, and expectations. The examples can be taken from the work of Reynolds et al. (2012) and Wilson et al. (2011). These authors underline the role of academic advising in institutions and for students in particular. There are the cases when students are involved in different activities and cannot cope with the required portion of academic assignments. They have to know that there is a group of people they can address to and get the explanations that can facilitate a working process. Academic advising is not a direct help in completing tasks. It is the support that can be offered by an experienced and knowledgeable individual (Holmes et al., 2014) to a student in need. Some writers and researchers support the idea of mutual explanation of the needs and expectations and prove that students have to voice their thoughts and demands so that they can be identified by advisors (Drake, 2011). Still, Wilson et al. (2011) explain the necessity of hierarchical relations in academic advising. It means that student’s roles and possibilities have to be defined by their advisors and meet the requirements set by institutions (in this case, the requirements that are set by Historically Black Colleges and Universities that can be found in a particular region of the country).

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Many sources that are used in this study touch upon the role of advisors in an advising process. The authors, except Harrison (2012; 2014), fail to clarify the outcomes of students’ solutions and attitudes to the same process. Students are the important participants in the educational process, and their opinions cannot be neglected. The main contradiction that exists in the current sources is the identification of students and advisors as the equal participants of an advising process with a number of functions and duties to be fulfilled and the failure to understand what students may think about different aspects of this process, for example, about the quality of advising offered by male and female advisors. Harrison (2014) introduces the student as the subject matter in the investigation and defines academic advisors ass the major facilitators that can be used in the students’ search for identity and academic purposes that can be achieved. Besides, “it appears probable that different advising perspectives and approaches are more likely to be evaluated accurately by discipline-specific instruments, which also enables faculty development and improved advising outcome” (Harrison, 2012, p. 170). Still, it seems to be unfair to investigate and analyze the worth of academic advising without its main subject, students. The opinions of students may serve as a solid basis for the work that can be focused on the improvements of the conditions under which advising is offered. Students’ perceptions and opinions can help advisors identify their weak and strong points and share their experience with other advisors. At the same time, there should be a certain criterion according to which students’ opinions can be generated. Harrison (2012) offers the FAEQ assessment in order to learn how the advising session, advocacy/accountability, knowledge, and available should be organized and used by advisors. As soon as strong and weak points of the chosen factors are identified, academic advising can be investigated as a process that can be improved and properly developed regarding the demands of their institutions, expectations of students, and the abilities of advisors.

Connection between Academic Advising and Students’ Retention Ratings

The work by Reynolds et al. (2012) can be used as an example of how a quantitative study can be organized in a particular group of people bounded by such demographic variables as gender or socioeconomic status, race, and personal interests (in this case, athletes are chosen for the analysis). The authors discuss the importance of academic advising centers to assist students in preparations their homework or other tasks that require additional explanations and evaluations (Reynolds et al., 2012). Academic performance has to be on a high level, and students, regardless their personal interests, sportive achievements, and involvement in various academic activities, have to use all opportunities in order to succeed in this task and overcome the educational barriers they may face with. For example, students-athletes are in need of attention from their tutors, advisors, and even their parents. They have to understand how to combine physical training and education. Still, they need more explanations and attention from a professional point of view. Students should understand why they have to combine education and training and learn to succeed in both. Academic achievements and performance have to be organized properly so that students can realize how to succeed not at the expense of their personal interests of professional goals, and advisors can promote a high level of retention and the desire of students to get involved in education and physical training. Despite the fact that this kind of investigation offered by Reynolds et al. (2012) is based on a particular group of people with their personal demands and interests and with almost the same attitudes to education and physical training (the former interests are not as crucial as the latter interests are), the authors succeeded in investigating academic advising as a possibility to help students clarify their tasks and duties and provide them with the required portion of explanations that can be necessary for an educational process.

Almost the same ideas are introduced in the project developed by Swecker et al. (2013). The authors share their opinions about the connection between retention and academic advising and underline the significance of advising as the possibility to engage, involve, and interact with students in the most captivating and effective for students and advisors ways. Though the current project does not focus on retention as the goal that has to be achieved, the fact that academic advising is the process that may lead to the improvements in student retention cannot be neglected (Craig, 2011). Retention is the result of successful cooperation that exists between an advisor and a student. Besides, academic advising is the practice that connects students to their academic institution (Swecker et al. 2013), and this type of connection cannot be neglected as well. Regarding the past investigations and achievements, the project developed by Swecker et al. (2013) describes the required connection between institutional leadership and academic advising as the possibility to increase the number of personnel that can take responsibility for meeting students, formatting information delivery, and coping with academic challenges and needs of students (Swecker et al., 2013). Proactive advising is a good recommendation that can be given to the institutional stakeholders in order to establish professional relationships between advisors and advisees.

Academic advising should have a powerful platform for administrators, advisors, and students, and those, who develop the guidelines on how to integrate interventions into the already developed programs and activities (Wilson et al., 2011). The point is that the current global changes in such spheres as economics, politics, and education prove the presence of weaknesses in the already developed systems and the inabilities to solve them in a short period of time. Wilson et al. (2011) suggest to re-evaluate the existing educational practices and methods of academic advising in order to help stakeholders to learn better the basics and make considerable contributions to different spheres of life. Therefore, it is correct to regard academic advising as a chance to explain students not only some parts of their academic work that has to be done but also the overall importance of education, its impact on their future lives and social relations, and the outcomes it may have on different spheres of life.

Students have to understand that their retention is one of the signs that the existing educational system works properly, and academic advising may be considered as one of the crucial factors that may influence student retention (Wilson et al., 2011). As soon as other factors such as self-image or financial support are investigated and improved to the required extent, the worth of academic advising can be identified and developed properly. Research offered by Kendricks et al. (2012) shows that student retention and academic advising are connected because some students may need more time and efforts to get involved in an educational process. The task of advisors should not be the provision and explanation of the required material only. Advisors have to understand why students may need help and when the portion of advising should be offered. Kedricks et al. (2012), Drake (2011), and Wilson et al. (2011) inform that academic advising should be improved by advisors in order to create appropriate educational conditions for their advisees. Advising helps students realize their roles, comprehend their duties, and identify their abilities in regards to the tasks that they have to complete in a particular institution. It is necessary to analyze what other researchers and writers think about academic advising that can be offered to the students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and how they evaluate the idea of student-advisor relations.

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Academic Advising in Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The peculiar feature of academic advising available for the HBCUs’ students is the possibility to consider a number of external and internal factors that may influence student education and educational outcomes. During the last several years, the focus and purposes of academic advising have been considered re-evaluated and approved (Holmes et al., 2014). Much attention was paid to prescriptive and developmental approaches of advising. Holmes et al. (2014) introduce prescriptive advising as a possibility for advisors to provide new HBCUs’ students with the required portion of information for education and cooperation. Advisors have to demonstrate their proficiency and responsibility to help students cope with all academic assignments and activities and consider the importance of their racial diversity. One of the main tasks that have to be performed by the advisors who work with the HBCU students is the neglect of such demographic factor as a race. African American students should be confident that any kind of academic help is offered to support their academic activities and promote high academic achievements and student personal development (Holmes et al., 2014). Developmental advising is based on such concept as student self-actualization and the abilities to develop regarding the material offered. Such type of advising promotes a personal and professional growth of students because they try to make independent decisions and solve their problems regarding their personal skills and abilities and tutors because they learn how to cooperate with students and make them believe that they can make all decisions independently and properly. The HBCU students want to know that their work and their attempts can be noticed and appreciated. Their work and attempts can be identified and rewarded. Holmes et al. (2014) offer to consider advising as a chance to interplay such activities as teaching, learning and advising and introduce a practice that can help to require knowledge, use it, and understand how it can be used in different situations. A number of HBCU students want to believe that their work and their decisions can influence their lives and provide them with the opportunities that can be used in future.

HBCU academic advising has teaching as its core because students should learn how to take an active role in different aspects of their professional and personal development and respect the steps taken by advisors to assist them. Kendricks et al. (2012) state that the process of academic advising depends equally on a student and an advisor because the latter introduces the options, and the former has to understand what is more appropriate for them. As many students around the whole world, the HBCUs’ students are challenged by such factors as prices on education, campus environments, lack of peer engagement, and even poorly developed relations with tutors (Craig, 2011). Still, the outcomes of all these factors differ among the HBCUs’ students and other institutions because a considerable number of African American students still do not want to continue studying and drop colleges and institutions after the first two years of education. One of the reasons for such instability of students can be explained by poor advising techniques and the inabilities of tutors to make their students stay and continue their education. Students do not have an opportunity to share their personal attitudes to their work, tutors, and advisors. They have to deal with personal discontents and try to solve the problems in order not to be poorly prepared for the meetings with their advisors. The outcomes of such misunderstandings and inabilities lead to low retention ratings among the HBCUs’ students and the necessity to develop some new academic advising strategies that can help students.

Four Domains of Academic Advising as the Main Variables of the Study

To understand how academic advising can be approved, it is possible to choose some assessment tool and involve as many students as possible in analyzing the situation. The results can serve as a powerful basis and the explanation to the problems that take place in academic advising. In this project, the Faculty Advisor Evaluation Questionnaire (FAEQ) is used to gather the opinions of students about the quality of academic advising they can get at their institutions. The investigation offered by Harrison (2014) can be used as the basis for the evaluation of four main domains of academic advising that are the advising session, advocacy/accountability for student welfare, knowledge, and availability. Each factor has its role and impact on an educational process and advising practices. Students can share their opinions and answer questions about their experiences with advisors and the level of satisfaction they get in the process. Such evaluation should help to investigate positive and negative aspects of the process, consider the peculiarities of the relations between students and advisors, and develop advising mission, vision, and philosophy (Harrison, 2014).

Each factor in academic advising has its purpose and impact of a further understanding of the material and the distribution of the roles. For example, according to Harrison (2014), the advising session factor should help to identify the main steps in an educative process, develop educational goals, create an appropriate environment, and use the best qualities of an advisor to be ready for a session and by a student to know what to expect from such sessions. The section that helps to evaluate the factor of advocacy/accountability for student welfare does not contain too many questions. Still, these questions help to determine the quality of work offered by an advisor in regards to student’s personal needs and expectations. As a rule, this section demonstrates students’ attitudes to their advisors on the basis of the experience got. The knowledge and availability sections focus on the personal traits of advisors and their abilities to cooperate with students. Students evaluate the level of advisors’ engagement in an advising process and the level of knowledge that advisors use in their practices (Harrison, 2014) and share their opinions in a form of questionnaires offered.

The analysis of these four factors is an integral step that has to be done by a researcher. It is clear that academic advising may be predetermined by several factors. However, the level of knowledge of advisors and students turns out to be one of the most crucial points for consideration. On the one hand, students evaluate the level of knowledge their advisors use in practice. On the other hand, students have to possess the necessary knowledge in order to analyze their advisors’ work, negotiate the requirements they have to follow, and manage challenging situations in their institutions (Swecker et al., 2013). Besides, knowledge is not only a requirement or quality that should be possessed. It is a goal of an advising process because of the tasks advisors have to perform is the explanation of how academic skills and knowledge have to be cultivated by students (Drake, 2011). Kendricks et al. (2012) admit that mentors have to be properly prepared for advising processes because this kind of work requires people to be culturally diverse, knowledgeable, supportive, self-confident, and clear in their thoughts and explanations. Still, an advisor should not be an example for students to follow. The role of this person is to guide and explain but not to show the way of what a successful researcher or writer can do. Academic advising is all about explanations, not suggestions (Swecker et al., 2013).

Variety of Advising Styles Students Can Experience in Their Institutions

There is not much literature about the impact of a gender factor on a style of advertising. The evaluation of student perception of academic advising has been offered by Harrison (2012; 2014), the investigations based on the worth of academic advising were offered by Drake (2011) and Holmes et al. (2014), and the evaluations of academic achievements regarding the existing opportunities and expectations were discussed by Kendricks et al. (2012). Besides, Holmes et al. (2014) underline the importance of student evaluation of advising as a chance to voice their opinions and promote the changes in educational and advising processes if necessary. The choice of an advising method defines the level of students’ interest and desire to cooperate with their advisors and institutions and continue education in general. Though the authors do not pay any attention to the gender differences in advising styles, their investigation can be used as a solid foundation for the current study as an opportunity to comprehend what kind of work has to be evaluated by students with the help of the FAEQ that has been developed and introduced by Harrison.

Advising can focus on the development of students’ skills and self-actualization and the provision of guidelines that have to be followed precisely. Holmes et al. (2014) prove that prescriptive advising can be effective only in the situations when students have to deal with completely new tasks and have no ideas on how to start working, writing, or investigating the required field. In other cases, prescriptive advising can be regarded as the help that fails to facilitate the development of the relations between students and their advisors (Holmes et al., 2014) and promotes self-actualization of a student, who is in need of some pieces of advice.

Academic Advising Challenges and Gender Factors in HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and Universities play a crucial role in the black community and the way of how cultural aspects have to be accepted and understood in society. Still, the role of the same institutions in higher education undergoes considerable discussions because of the impossibility to prove that racial discrimination can be a determining factor of the quality of education. There are many African-American students, who want to succeed in education regardless their personal problems and challenges including their poor home settings, inappropriate family relations, single parenting, or even the absence of parents. HBCUs usually open their doors to all African American students in need. The representatives of these institutions provide students with support, understanding, knowledge, and information that can be used to set personal and professional goals.

Still, the question remains to be open if it is possible that a gender factor may play an important role in academic advising. Some authors make attempts to investigate differences in gender between students. For example, Craig (2011) discusses female and male students and their levels of retention. It is concluded that African-American male students have lower retention rates in comparison to the results demonstrated by female students of the same institutions. Wilson et al. (2011) come to the conclusion that female students face serious challenges in achieving recognition and rewards in comparison to male students. Still, this research touches upon the students, who are involved in STEM disciplines. The authors consider the possible effects of a gender factor; however, none of them deals with the possible difference that may take place in academic advising because of different genders of advisors. Female and male advising has not been thoroughly investigated, and there is a burning need to comprehend if it is possible that students get a chance to experience different attitudes and gain different knowledge regarding the gender of a person, who advises them.

Swecker et al. (2013), as well as many other authors, describe academic advising as a systematic process that involves a student and an advisor and promotes the development of the relations that can easily facilitate a decision making process, the identification of resources, the solution of problems, and the process of goals setting. Research literature that can be found on a topic proves that academic advising is a critical strategy that can increase student retention and satisfaction. On the one hand, the retention improvements are crucial for academic institutions. On the other hand, student satisfaction is a considerable advantage of an educational process, and advisors or their leaders should know how to achieve it.

Undergraduate students turn out to be dependent on the information and ideas offered by people outside their ordinary environment. Students have to feel comfort and safe when they are going to ask for some pieces of advice. If students are not able to comprehend what kind of steps should be taken first, it is suggested to use a proactive method of advising and make advisors responsible for the development of the relations with students. If students know what they want to ask and may initiate a contact with an advisor, a developmental approach of academic advising can be investigated. The only requirement that has to be considered is the actual participation of a student and an advisor in an academic advising process. Students’ perceptions of institutional requirements and the methods used by advisors can influence their integration in an educational process and the intentions to continue education in the chosen HBCU. As soon as all these requirements and factors are taken into consideration, it is possible to investigate what kind of academic advising approach (offered by a female advisor or a male advisor) can be more effective for the HBCUs’ students and the cooperation with what advisor can be more productive. Students have to understand if they can influence their education and choose an advisor, who can meet their expectations.

References

Craig, W.O. (2011). Strategies for improving the retention of engineering and technology students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies, 2(5), 561-568.

Drake, J. K. (2011). The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus, 16 (3), 8-12. Web.

Harris, A. (2013). Distributed leadership: Friend or foe? Educational Management Administration Leadership, 41(5), 545-554.

Harrison, E. M. (2012). Development and pilot testing of the faculty advisor evaluation questionnaire. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(3), 167-171.

Harrison, E.M. (2014). The faculty advisor evaluation questionnaire: Psychometric properties. Nursing Education Perspectives, 35(6), 380-386.

Holmes, K.Y., White, K.B., & Colley-Doles, J. (2014). Rethinking teaching and advising: Strategies for integrating the principles of student-centered teaching into the advising process at a historically black university. In K.Y. Holmes, E.A.W. Duncan, & T.E. Zinn (Eds.) Diverse Perspectives in College Training (pp. 56-63). Web.

Kendricks, K.D., Nedunuri, K.V. & Arment, A.R. (2012). Minority student perceptions of the impact of mentoring to enhance academic performance in STEM disciplines. Journal of STEM Education, 14(2), 38-46.

Poekert, P.E. (2011). Teacher leadership and professional development: Examining links between two concepts central to school improvement. Professional Development in Education, 38(2), 169-188.

Reynolds, L., Fisher, D., & Cavil, J.K. (2012). Impact of demographic variables on student athletes’ academic performance. Educational Foundations, 26(3-4), 93-111.

Swecker, H.K., Fiflot, M., & Searby, L. (2013). Academic advising and first-generation college students: A quantitative study on student retention. NACADA Journal, 33(1), 46-53.

Wilson, Z.S., Holmes, L., deGravelles, K., Sylvain, M.R., Batiste, L., Johnson, M., McGuire, S.Y., Pang, S.S., Warner, I.M. (2011). Hierarchical mentoring: A transforming strategy for improving diversity and retention in undergraduate STEM disciplines. Journal of Science, Education, and Technology, 21, 148-156.

Young-Jones, A.D., Burt, T.D., Dixon, S., & Hawthorne, M.J. (2013). Academic advising: Does it really impact student success? Quality Assurance in Education, 21(1), 7-19.

Relevance to Educational Leadership
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