SOCS 325 Applying Theory to Advising Practice
Apply the theory of the interlocking treadmills of
production and consumption to schoolwork and the pressure to get a degree, and
then an advanced degree, and so on. For example, consider the rising levels of
qualifications required to gain a good-paying job and the rising levels of
consumption expectations that define what a “good-paying job” is and
submit a paper. The paper must be double spaced, minimum two-pages in length,
and in APA format.
Although there are no established theories of academic advising (Creamer, 2000), there are numerous theories from education and the social sciences which have provided a foundation for the changes which have occurred in the field since it became a ‘defined and examined activity'(Frost, 2000, p. 10) in the 1960s and 1970s. As stated by Creamer (2000), ‘academic advising is an educational activity that depends on valid explanations of complex student behaviors and institutional conditions to assist college students in making and executing educational and life plans. These explanations are commonly found in sound theories…[Therefore,] advisors may be required to understand many theories…in order to grasp sufficient knowledge to be useful in advising students’ (p. 18). Moreover, as a result of the increased interest and scholarly research associated with the field, as well as drastic changes within society, institutions of higher learning, and the student population, various approaches have been defined and proposed as effective models of academic advising. This paper is intended to examine several of the theories and approaches to advising that can provide a solid foundation for advisors wishing to develop their own personal academic advising philosophy.
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Theories that Influence the Practice of Academic Advising
Amongst the multiple theories that provide a foundation for effective academic advising practice are those of student development, cognitive development, career development, learning, decision-making, multiculturalism, retention, personality, moral development, and adult development (Creamer, 2000). In addition, academic advisors should have an awareness of sociological, organizational, psychosocial, and person-environment interaction theories (Creamer, 2000; King, 2005). Due to increased diversity in the student population, and the fact that many of the established ‘theories are especially wanting in regard to their appropriateness for explaining development in minorities, gay and lesbian persons, and women’ (Creamer, p. 31), academic advisors also need to understand theories of identity development associated with race, class, gender, sexuality, and special populations (King, 2005; McKewen, 2003). Such a broad range of theories may prove to be overwhelming to academic advisors, and as Hendey (1999) states, ‘the fact that there are many different developmental theories only makes a precise common understanding of developmental advising more difficult…It all gets rather complicated and confusing’ (p. 1). However, while Hendey cautions advisors ‘not to get bogged down in specific theories of development, [he does] think it is necessary to have some knowledge of several of the specific theories’ ( p. 3). There are three theory clusters important to the practice of academic advising: psychosocial theories, cognitive development theories, and typological theories (Creamer, 2000).
The psychosocial theories of development, which can be applied to the development of identity in students, were proposed by such well-known figures as Erikson, Chickering and Reisser, Levinson, Marcia, and Josselson. These theories ‘describe how development is shaped by the resolution of developmental tasks that occur in chronological sequence throughout the life cycle’ (Creamer and Creamer, 1994, p. 18). All of these theorists established a particular number of stages which individuals pass through in the course of their lifetimes. ‘People are seen as making systematic progression in a certain order through a series of phases. Step by step they move closer to some form of adult status. This movement can be seen as involving changes in intellectual and physical powers (for example around changes in intelligence, expertise and ability to reason); and the impact of life events and experiences’ (Smith, 1999, p. 7).
Erikson established eight age-related stages of development, each characterized by particular issues, or developmental tasks, which must be addressed before moving on to the next stage (Evans, 2003). The stages most relevant to traditional students in higher education are those related to identity versus identity confusion and intimacy versus isolation (Creamer, 2000)
Well-known within the realm of student services in higher education are Chickering and Reisser’s seven vectors of identity development which include the following: developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity (Creamer, 2000; Evans, 2003). Although these vectors are not necessarily as sequential as those proposed by Erikson, the ‘vectors do build on each other and lead to greater complexity, stability, and integration…[E]ducational environments exert a powerful influence that helps students move through the seven vectors of development’ (Evans, p. 182).
Levinson’s developmental theory outlines four eras within the life cycle, each lasting approximately 25 years (Smith, 1999). For traditional-aged college students, Levinson’s second era of early adulthood, which occurs between the ages of 17 to 45, is most applicable. This era consists of four stages: early adult transition, entering the adult world, age thirty transition, and settling down. Each era has its own distinct characteristics, and each transition, ‘which may take between three and six years to complete…requires a basic change in the character of one’s life’ (Smith, p. 11). Moreover, a process of individuation occurs throughout one’s life whereby there is a ‘changing relationship between self and the external world…[M]uch of developmental progress is couched in terms of the changing nature of the relationship between self and others, such as mentor relationships, love and family relationships, and occupational relationships’ (Smith, p.12).
Josselson applied Marcia’s four identity states – diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and achievement – to identity development in women. Creamer (2000) noted that, ‘Josselson’s work shows the complexity of identity development and how it may vary by gender’ (p. 22).
These psychosocial identity development theories are readily applicable within academic advising. As an advisor, it’s important to have an understanding of these various theories and stages in order to ascertain the level of development of particular students and to assist them in developing within and beyond their particular stage. Understanding how students in a particular stage or level of development establish meaning in their lives can provide insights to advisors which allow them ‘to explain conditions in students’ lives that are often confusing and that sometimes block effective planning and learning’ (Creamer, 2000, p. 21). Moreover, Creamer and Creamer (1994), affirm that understanding the life themes that students are coping with at various stages of development, ‘such as searching for identity and purpose…may help advisors to focus their interventions with students on what should be taught during each encounter with students rather than merely on what students present as questions’ (p. 18). Evans (2003) highlights the importance of understanding psychosocial development in students in order ‘to be more proactive in anticipating student issues and more responsive to, and understanding of, concerns that arise [when working] with students’ (p. 185).
Cognitive development theories are also very relevant to the field of academic advising. Based on the work of Piaget, these theories ‘examine how people think, reason, and make meaning out of their experiences’ (Evans, 2003, p. 186). Cognitive development is also viewed as sequential and ‘development occurs when [an individual’s] cognitive structure is changed, thus enabling new ways of incorporating experience’ (Creamer, 2000, p. 23). Because cognitive structures vary from one individual to another, individuals may have very different views of a single event (Creamer and Creamer, 1994).