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Statement regarding Graduate Advising Best Practices

College of Education Faculty Council Statement on Graduate Advising Best Practices

Endorsed April 23, 2015


The Faculty Council of the College of Education issues this statement to provide faculty with guidance on advising graduate students. We recognize that graduate advising can be challenging because it is deeply personal and highly relational. Precisely what works or does not work can vary between different contexts. This statement is not a formula. It is an expression of the professional culture between faculty and students that our community values. We hope that it will 1) help faculty to keep in mind concerns that graduate students may have about their position of limited power, 2) stimulate faculty reflection on their own advising practices, and 3) encourage faculty to explore directions to improve. Good advising cannot be prescribed or forced. It must be embraced as an ethical commitment in all its complexity.

 In March 2015 the Dean of the College of Education, David Monk, published an essay in Inside Higher Education proposing a list of best practices for advising graduate students. The Faculty Council used this list of hallmarks as a starting point for the development of its own statement on the high-quality advising practices and qualities for the College of Education, articulated below:

Accessibility

Advisers need to be reasonably accessible. Advisers should not disappear, but advisees also need to understand that advisers lead demanding lives and have professional as well as family responsibilities. It is not reasonable for advisees to expect immediate access at all times.

Accuracy

Advice on programmatic and academic issues provided to advisees needs to be accurate and cogent. Advisees can reasonably expect their advisers to be knowledgeable and able to communicate clearly and to be respectful of their time.

Timeliness

Advice provided needs to be timely. While it is hard to put a precise metric on this, it is also hard to defend making an advisee wait multiple weeks for technical answers, controllable permissions, or feedback on writing (if not of extended length), especially if these matters are time-sensitive for the advisee’s progress.

Criticism

Advice provided can include criticism, but the criticism needs to be respectful, humane, and consistent. Advisees should expect constructive criticism to be part of the advising experience. Advisers should strive to serve as “critical friends” who provide consistent messages about expectations for improvement.

Standards

Advisers need to set high, but realistic and attainable standards. It is not appropriate for advisers to expect advisees to reach escalating standards raised ever higher again and again. Advisees are entitled to know what counts as an acceptable level of performance for moving to the next milestone in the program.

Responsiveness

Advisers are entitled to expect their advisees to be attentive to the advice that is offered, but not to the point where advisees are expected to follow all suggestions that are offered without question and without negotiation. Advisers need to listen carefully to their advisees. Furthermore, advisers should seek to be responsive to special needs of advisees whose backgrounds or social characteristics may leave them marginalized or isolated. Good advising helps students feel they are part of a scholarly community.

Boundaries

Advisers should keep their relationships with advisees focused on academic and professional development. It is not appropriate for advisers to expect advisees to become involved with assisting advisers with their personal needs. Advisers should take care not to offer advice about the personal lives of advisees. It is desirable for advisers to be aware of sources of professional counseling and to share this information with advisees as appropriate. 

Remedies

Advisees need to know where they can obtain assistance if difficulties develop with an adviser. Similarly, advisers need to know where they can obtain assistance if difficulties develop with an advisee. Faculty advisers should always keep in mind that they have much more power and security, at least from the advisee’s perspective.

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There is considerable variety in precisely what these hallmarks look like in practice. For this reason, we strongly urge faculty to establish what their expectations look like at the outset of a new relationship with an advisee. Advisers can let their advisees know from the beginning what they expect from students as well as what students can expect from them. The Faculty Council of the College of Education endorses the above hallmarks as our community’s ethical expectations for graduate advising. We call on our faculty colleagues to attend to them in their interactions with graduate students.