Section 2: Getting to Know the Student
The Importance of the Advisor/Advisee Relationship
Most advisors can quickly become qualified to help students select courses; however, many advisors struggle with building the personal relationship that is important for effective advising. To be truly effective, you should be able to go beyond routine course scheduling to help students achieve their academic and career goals. This section is intended to help you understand the importance of your interactions with advisees and to suggest ways to improve relationship building and communication with students.
The questions you ask a student can be those that you use to seek information (closed-ended) and those that you use to build a relationship (open-ended). Try to use open-ended questions to encourage students to talk rather than closed questions that can be answered in a few words. Some examples:
"Tell me a little about your English class."
"Do you attend English class?"
"How do you feel about English class?"
"Do you like English class?"
"What do you think about the time you spent on the test?"
"How long did it take you to finish the test?"
One very important aspect of successful academic advising is providing the student with personalized attention and nonverbal communication. Some simple methods for accomplishing this:
- Refer to the student by first name
- Maintain an attitude of acceptance and respect
- Position yourself at an appropriate distance (2-5 feet)
- Face the student squarely
- Maintain comfortable eye contact
The most important element in effective advising is good listening skills. Advisors should use active listening to understand what the student is really saying:
- Pay careful attention when the student is speaking
- Pay attention to the student's non-verbal communication (tone of voice, posture, expression, eye contact, etc.)
- Focus on the central idea -- don't get lost in details
It is also a good technique while listening to clarify what you believe the student is saying:
- Note the content of student's message and feelings: paraphrase back, making sure you have heard correctly
- Communicate understanding of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors from the student's frame of reference
Another way to excel as an advisor is to practice effective speaking skills when meeting with students. Attempt to word all of your comments toward the understanding of the student's needs. Some examples:
- "Could it be that..."
- "I wonder if..."
- "What I guess I'm hearing is..."
- "It seems you're feeling a little..."
- "I get the impression that..."
- "If I understand you..."