Building on our advising success

A week or so ago, I was talking with one faculty member about the information that we now receive as a result of the IDEA student ratings of instruction reports.  During that conversation, our focus kept drifting toward the recommendations for improvement.  Although this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, we began to notice together how evidence of success can be just as important.  Not only can it help confirm that our efforts are bearing some fruit, but it can also remind us to continue to “play to our strengths.”

With this in mind, I’d like to highlight some findings about our students’ experience with advising that I believe add to our rationale for considering ways in which we might further improve our students advising experience.

Every year we ask our graduating seniors about their satisfaction with advising overall and in advising in the primary major on a scale of 1 to 5.  Below are the average scores from last spring (2011).

 

Average Score

Standard Deviation

Overall Advising

4.102

1.176

Major Advising

3.701

1.198

 

It turns out that there are two interesting tidbits in this data.  First, the difference between satisfaction with overall advising and major advising is statistically significant – meaning that the difference between the two average scores is not attributable to chance.  Second, the difference in the standard deviation (the average gap between each student response to these questions and the overall average response) suggests that there is more variability of experiences in major advising than overall advising.

At this point you might be thinking, “Mark, that is a strange interpretation of playing to our strengths!”  To which I say – hold on for just a second.  Remember that our response scale of 1 – 5 defines “4” as satisfied . . . which means that on average both groups are relatively satisfied.  If you compare these numbers to our NSSE data on advising, it turns out that our students respond much higher than the NSSE average – both for freshmen and for seniors.

In the context of these two data points, I am most interested in asking whether we might have other data that suggests a relative strength in advising that we might expand upon to both improve our students’ average major advising score AND tighten the variability in across that experience.

I think we might have just such a data point in another section of the NSSE survey.  Students are asked earlier in the survey how often they talk about career plans with a faculty member or advisor (1=never, 2=sometimes, 3=often, 4=very often).

 

Augustana

Comparable Liberal Arts Colleges

Freshmen

2.42***

2.23

Seniors

2.92***

2.63

 

It appears that our faculty and staff advisors are already talking with advisees about their career plans substantially more often than advisors and faculty at comparable liberal arts colleges.  Since we know from our self-study of advising that this efforts makes a substantial difference in the degree to which our students feel certain about their post-graduate plans, it appears to me that this is something that we are doing very well and could build upon to strengthen our students advising experience in the major.

Have a wonderful week and a great holiday break.

Make it a good day.

Mark

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