Adviser and Faculty Perceptions of the Benefits and Feasibility of Intrusive Advising

Danie Schneider, MSED, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Pietro Sasso, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Abstract

Intrusive advising requires the efforts and collaboration of faculty and academic advisers.  Research suggests (Miller & Murray, 2005; Schee, 2007) that students are more successful when they have more meaningful relationships with academic advisers and faculty.  This study compared the attitudes and perceptions about intrusive advising between faculty members and academic advisers at a Midwestern, public university.  Results from this single-institution study suggest that faculty members (n=134) moderately recognize and academic advisers (n=40) strongly recognize benefits to the components of intrusive advising. Participants did not envision intrusive advising practices as entirely feasible at their institution, but indicate that innovation and collaboration may make some components of intrusive advising feasible.

Introduction

Intrusive academic advising is a critical factor in the success of students who have the least experience with higher education. Increasing numbers of students at higher education institutions are first-generation (Engle & Tinto, 2008), academically underprepared (King, 2004), and are more likely to need developmental courses (ACT, 2015; Miller & Murray, 2005; U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Additionally, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or underrepresented minority groups continue to lack proper academic support and resources (Engle & Tinto; Schreiner, Noel, Anderson, & Cantwell, 2011). These populations of students are most likely to become transfer or stop-out students and not retatined by the insitutution (Swecker, Fifolt, & Searby, 2014). Higher education institutions should be able to provide services and interventions that will provide for retention and graduation for all students. The federal standard retention rate measured over six years is 59 percent for first-time, full-time students (Kena, et al., 2014). While this accounts for over half of the students, there is room for improvement.

One potential retention strategy is intrusive advising. Research suggests that intrusive advising should be a beneficial tool in promoting student success (Fowler & Boylan, 2010; Schee, 2007). However, not all members of the academic community are equally informed of existing scholarship about intrusive advising, and may not agree that this degree of involvement is beneficial to students and to the institution (Thompson, 2016). The burden of responsibility of advising increasingly falls to professional advisers as faculty time devoted to one-on-one student interaction decreases (Baker & Griffin, 2010). Concurrently, university personnel do not consistently see the benefits of academic advising, as other campus staff do not rank advising as highly as the students did on national benchmark surveys (Thompson, 2016). This creates a value perception gap regarding the role of academic advising at most institutions (Keeling, 2003). Additionally, educational institutions are widely experiencing funding cuts that dramatically reduce their ability to provide services and staff for extra support. Intrusive advising is resource intensive. There must be adequate faculty and staff who perceive the value and benefits to utilize the components necessary for intrusive advising.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceived benefits and feasibility of intrusive advising among faculty and primary role academic advisers at a Midwestern public university. At the host institution of this study, academic advisors work within a decentralized, split-satellite model of academic advising (Habley, 1997). Undergraduate students are assigned to a general advising center until they declare an intended major, when they are assigned to a primary-role academic adviser in the appropriate academic school or college. Each academic school or college engages in its own model of advising, but none of these are based on an intrusive advising approach. Faculty at the institution typically only advise graduate students, while undergraduates all are assigned to a specific primary role adviser. There is distinct variability in academic adviser caseloads (See Table 3). This study examines the perspectives of faculty in supporting an intrusive advising model and those of academic advisers in implementing it more directly.

Literature Review

The relationship between the student and academic adviser is significant (Miller & Murray, 2005). Tinto insists that academic advising is a “major component of the academic, social, and personal support programs necessary to help students meet their learning needs” (as cited in Miller & Murray, 2005, p. 3). Different styles of academic advising have been implemented through the years, but one specific emerging practice is intrusive advising. It also referred to as proactive advising, because of the negative connotation that intrusive conveys. “Intrusive advising, with its quick feedback, can identify and suggest support mechanisms to students faltering on their path to college success” (Fowler & Boylan, 2010, p. 4).

Intrusive advising has been shown to be effective on students who encounter significant academic difficulty, particularly when that difficulty is caught early and when interaction with academic advisers is part of the intervention (Schee, 2007). For example, Schee (2007) found students who had 3 to 8 meetings with an adviser had greater academic success than those who attended fewer meetings. Additionally, it is suggested that a five meeting sequence which addresses current coursework, preparing for the next registration period, and creating a plan together for preparing for finals facilitates academic success in students (Rodgers, Blunt, & Trible, 2014). Swecker et al. (2014) found in a study of first-generation students that the chances for retention of a student increased by 13% every time they meet with their academic adviser. Individual student effort to meet with the adviser may demonstrate their connection to the institution, which strengthens retention and student success (Swecker, et al., 2014).

Students who are hesitant to ask for assistance are more successful when they receive early intervention as academic or personal issues arise (Stuart, 2010). More intrusive programs that take sole responsibility from the students and give some to staff, facilitate greater academic success for students (Stuart, 2010). For example, a mandatory program that required students who have at least one failing grade at midsemester to attend a workshop prevented further issues (Boretz, 2012). While the workshops alone likely did not cause a significant change, the requirement opened opportunities for intervention and support from institutional staff, including faculty and academic advisers (Boretz, 2012).

Another study showed that early intervention through intrusive advising from faculty referrals at a two-year institution facilitated increased retention (Fowler and Boylan, 2010). Students in good standing increased from 46% to 70%, and students who were placed on academic probation decreased by 7%. The rate of students dismissed at the end of the year for academic issues decreased from 19% to 3%.

Even when intrusive efforts didn’t directly affect retention, they did significantly increase advising appointments (Schwebel, Walburn, Klyce, and Jerrolds, 2012). With the increase in appointments, the adviser opened the discussions to include topics such as major and minor choices, career opportunities, goals, success strategies, and varying ways to make college fulfilling (Schwebel, et al., 2012).

Methods

This was a quantitative descriptive study, which examined the perceptions of faculty members and academic advisers at one university via survey. The two variables were perceived benefits and perceived feasibility of intrusive academic advising. This study was guided by four research questions:

  1. To what extent do academic advisers believe that intrusive advising will benefit students?
  2. To what extent do academic advisers believe that intrusive advising is possible at their institution?
  3. To what extent do faculty members believe there is a connection between their level of involvement with academic advisers and student success?
  4. To what extent do faculty believe that intrusive advising is possible at their institution?

All current faculty members (N=669) and academic advisers (N=45) employed at a Midwestern public university were invited to participate in a survey via email. Two different anonymous surveys were sent, one to faculty and one to academic advisers. Informed consent was included at the beginning of the survey and no incentive was offered. Each survey had two subdomains: (1) attitudes towards intrusive advising and (2) feasibility/obstacles of intrusive advising, answered according to a Likert scale (5=strongly agree; 4=agree; 3=neutral; 2= disagree; and 1= strongly disagree). The faculty survey had 23 items, the advising survey had 37 items. Thirteen of the faculty survey questions and 26 of the adviser questions pertained to the attitude toward intrusive advising subdomain. The academic advisers were then asked 11 more questions, and the faculty members were asked 10 more, for the feasibility/obstacles of intrusive advising subdomain. Additional non-required questions included demographic data as well as open-ended items regarding recommendations for best practices for academic advisers and faculty.

SPSS percentages were calculated for each survey question to determine whether academic advisers and faculty members consider intrusive academic advising beneficial and feasible. The percentages were also used to compare and contrast the attitudes of academic advisers with those of the faculty members. Common themes were extracted from the open-ended questions to investigate recommendations for useful practices.

Results

Of the 669 faculty members and 45 academic advisers who were provided the surveys, 134 faculty members and 40 academic advisers responded. There was a 20% response rate for faculty and an 89% response rate for academic advisers. Demographic information gathered includes professional involvement, years of service, and familiarity with intrusive advising. Academic advisers were asked to provide their caseloads. Since answers to demographic questions were not required, not all who were surveyed are represented in the reported data.

Table 1 describes years of service of the surveyed academic advisers and faculty members. Academic advisers were asked to provide their years as an academic adviser, while the faculty members to provide how many years they had served at their current institution. On average, adviser respondents have fewer years of service than faculty.

Table 1: Number of years of academic advising experience & faculty service

Years of Service Academic Advisers Faculty Members
Under 1-5 15 (37.5%) 35 (26%)
6-10 11 (27.5%) 30 (22%)
11-15 3 (7.5%) 24 (18%)
16-20 2 (5%)

14 (10%)

Over 20 0 4 (3%)

Additionally, fifty percent of academic advisers acknowledged that they belonged to some sort of professional organization such as NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. Faculty members were inquired about their tenure status. Twenty-three (17%) reported that they were non-tenure-track, 26 (19%) reported tenure-track, and 55 (41%) reported tenure.

Faculty and academic advisers were also asked to provide their familiarity with intrusive advising. Table 2 highlights the distribution of participant responses. This data suggests that academic advisers are far more familiar with the concept of intrusive advising than are faculty.

Table 2: Familiarity with concept of intrusive advising

Category of participant with question Strongly Agree or Agree Neutral Strongly Disagree or Disagree
Academic Adviser 90.3% 3.2% 6.5%
Faculty 37.4% 24.3% 38.3%

Research suggests that academic adviser caseload is related to the feasibility of intrusive academic advising. Therefore, academic advisers were asked to provide their caseload. Table 3 describes the self-reported number in the caseloads of the surveyed academic advisers. At this institution, it is common for advisers to have caseloads of 300 or more students.

Table 3: Caseload ranges for split-satellite model

Range Number
< 200 9
201-250 1
251-300 2
301-350 17
351-400 6
401-450 1
451 < 4

Adviser perceptions

Research question one examined academic advisers beliefs that intrusive advising would benefit students. The percentages in Table 4 suggest that academic advisers in this institution generally perceive that there are benefits to students in utilizing components of intrusive advising. At least 80.7% agreed there are benefits to all components listed on the survey, with the exception of faculty interaction and use of social media. Only 61.3% agreed that faculty interaction was beneficial to students and 32.2% thought that using social media to interact with their students would have a positive impact on the students.

Table 4: Academic adviser attitudes towards intrusive advising

Adviser Attitude Strongly Agree or Agree Neutral Strongly Disagree or Disagree

Greater impact with a more active role

80.7%

19.4%

0%

Report from faculty helpful for struggling student

87.1%

9.7%

3.2%

At-risk students benefit from multiple meetings

93.6%

6.5%

0%

Discussion about non-academic issues benefit at-risk students

87.1%

9.7%

3.2%

Advising tool beneficial for student success

83.9%

12.9%

3.2%

Adviser contacting students regarding grades/other issues beneficial.

96.8%

3.2%

0%

Faculty and adviser interaction helpful to students.

61.3%

25.8%

12.9%

Reaching out to newly declared students to advise them to make an appointment with me would be an unnecessary use of my time

9.7%

19.4%

71%

Using social media to interact with students would have greater impact

32.2%

41.9%

25.8%

Research question two examined if academic advisers believe that intrusive advising is possible at their institution. Table 5 suggests that academic advisers were generally less positive about the feasibility of intrusive academic advising than they were the benefits, with about half disagreeing with the feasibility of the practice. Over 48% reported that their other responsibilities make it difficult to take a more proactive role and over 40% believe their caseloads are too big to increase meeting frequency. On the other hand, fewer than 30% of advisers believed they do not have time for increasing communication with faculty.

Table 5: Academic adviser-percieved obstacles and feasibility with intrusive advising.

Adviser Obstacle/Feasibility Strongly Agree or Agree Neutral Strongly Disagree or Disagree
Other responsibilities make it almost impossible for more proactive role 48.4% 12.9% 38.8%
Too many students to increase meeting frequency 41.9% 9.7% 48.4%
Do not have time to increase communication with faculty 29% 22.6% 48.4%

Faculty perceptions

Research question three examined if faculty members believe there is a connection between their level of involvement with academic advisers and student success. Table 6 suggests that faculty members perceive there are benefits to components of intrusive advising, although not as strongly as advisers. They were most positive about benefits of reporting academic issues to the academic adviser, with 71% agreeing with that statement. Fewer than 50% agreed that faculty interaction with academic advisers benefits academically underprepared students or would lead to higher grades for students.

Table 6: Faculty attitudes towards intrusive advising.

Faculty Attitude Strongly Agree or Agree Neutral Strongly Disagree or Disagree
Interaction with advisers benefit academically underprepared students 48.6% 32.7% 18.7%
Academic issues reported to adviser benefit at-risk students 71% 17.8% 11.2%
Intrusive advising contribute to higher grades 45.8% 30.8% 23.4%

Research question four examined if faculty believe that intrusive advising is possible at their institution. Table 7 suggests faculty do not generally perceive that intrusive advising is fully feasible. However, some components may be feasible with innovation and resources. Fewer than half of the faculty respondents expressed an issue with email reports regarding student concerns or sending reports, which indicates that over half may be open to these options.

Table 7: Faculty-percieved obstacles and feasibility with intrusive advising

Faculty Obstacle/Feasibility Strongly Agree or Agree Neutral Strongly Disagree or Disagree
Impractical to send advisers regular reports 38.3% 13.1% 48.6%
Do not have time to email reports regarding student concerns 43% 18.7% 38.3%

The surveys also included open-ended questions. Common themes extracted from the open-ended questions indicated academic advisers and faculty members are utilizing tools to aid in student success. A descriptive syllabus was commonly suggested by both faculty members and academic advisers. As faculty members have historically utilized syllabi, academic advisers are also using them to outline student and adviser expectations. Syllabi are a beneficial means of communicating deadlines, office hours and contact information. Clear deadlines, open office hours and open contact are all themes that both academic advisers and faculty expressed are necessary for student success. Faculty members and academic advisers both clearly indicated that they share information on resources available to students.

Academic advisers and faculty also cite curriculum guides, checklists, and time management resources as useful tools for student success. The use of university software and collaboration with support staff allows more feasibility for these tools. Collaboration, in fact, is also a common theme that both constituents cited as a necessary tool in student success.

Faculty members were also asked what they would like the students’ academic advisers to know about the students’ progression in their courses. Over half of the participants that answered expressed that it would be beneficial for the academic advisers to know when the students are having grade and attendance issues in their courses. They commonly mentioned that they would like the academic adviser to know about the students’ engagement in courses. Several even specifically referred to progress reports and/or early warning systems.

Discussion

This study examined whether academic advisers and faculty members at a Midwestern public university believed that intrusive advising was both beneficial to students and feasible in the current state of affairs at their university. Overall, the research suggests that both faculty members, and especially academic advisers see benefits of components of intrusive advising. Academic advisers indicated a much greater confidence that a more active role in an at-risk student’s academic career could have a greater impact on their overall welfare than faculty (80.7% of advisers compared to 48.6% among faculty). The data indicates that academic advisers identify the benefits of intrusive advising more readily than faculty members. This finding can possibly be attributed either to the academic advisers’ previous knowledge of intrusive advising, or it can be attributed to different value placed on academic advising among different constituencies (Thompson, 2016). Our study shows that more academic advisers than faculty are familiar with the concept of intrusive advising, indicating that if the institution chose to initiate an intrusive advising model, faculty members would need training and/or information on the model.

Both academic advisers and faculty members indicated hesitation about the feasibility of practicing intrusive advising at their institution. The academic advisers reported 60-523 students in their caseload, with only two having caseloads of 100 or less. Since 38.3% of faculty members and 29% of academic advisers cite time constraints for communicating with each other, intrusive advising would be a challenge at this institution. However, the surveys also indicate that both see potential benefits. Open-ended responses suggest that with innovation and collaboration, some components or degrees of intrusive advising may be feasible.

Intrusive advising is a method that requires many staff members to function collectively in partnership for the benefit of the student. According to Fowler and Boylan (2010), intrusive programs require communication, collaboration and the efforts of faculty, staff, and administration to be effective. Baker and Griffin (2010) stress the importance of faculty roles in student success. The relationship between a student and faculty member can affect retention and student success, especially among students from underrepresented backgrounds who are more likely to be labeled as academically at-risk (Baker & Griffin, 2010).

The majority of academic advisers surveyed believe that it would benefit at-risk students academically to meet with them more than once a semester, consistent with existing advising literature on the topic. Even when time and resources are an issue, academic advisers could utilize email communications and group sessions, as Thompson (2016) suggests.

If a student were struggling in a course, 87.1% of academic advisers responded that a report from the instructor would help to work with that student. Contrastingly, only 71% of the faculty respondents believe they could have a greater impact on an at-risk student’s academic success if they reported any academic problems to the academic adviser, and only 42.1% believe it is feasible to send reports three times per semester regarding attendance/grade concerns to academic advisers. To bridge this gap, the institution should facilitate greater community between faculty members and academic advisers regarding student issues—especially with at-risk students—and seek ways to make providing feedback easier for faculty.

The surveys show that academic advisers and faculty members perceive emails and reports as more manageable than direct communication. These reports could potentially be more feasible if university-wide progress-reporting software was utilized. The academic adviser could then follow up with the at-risk students. This would potentially be a critical time for advisers to reinforce to the students resources available to them within the institution and local area, using a standardized document that would be attached to an email to save time and resources.

Even with limited staffing and resources, there are approaches to contribute to student success. Almost 84% of the academic adviser respondents perceive that the use of a regular tool to clearly explain advising expectations and guidelines is supportive of student success. Academic advisers and faculty members refer frequently to the use of clear, descriptive syllabi in promoting student success. Collaboration between academic advisers and faculty may lead to vital program/major information being included on advising syllabi.

These are components of intrusive advising that could feasibly be employed with minimal effort or cost. The addition of more academic advisers could strengthen these efforts by allowing for a reduction in average caseload. Additional administrative support in creating documents, distributing communications, and other appropriate tasks could help academic advisers increase the space to work directly with students responding to the outreach. Also, if more resources were available, faculty members could reduce their class loads, in turn making collaborating with academic advisers more feasible. They would also be able to rely more on office support or teaching/graduate assistants to aid in measures that promote student success.

Limitations and Future Research

This was a limited study, only including faculty and academic advisers at a single Midwestern public university. This study does not account for level of position or other intersectional identities such as age, ethnicity, gender, class, social identity, or orientation. Further research is needed to confirm and extend these findings with other relevant student populations.

Since participation was voluntary, there may be undetected biases or other confounds which might limit confidence in the findings or generalizability. Faculty members and academic advisers completed different surveys, making it difficult to compare their responses on attitudes and feasibility of intrusive advising. This is only a descriptive study, and the data only indicate probable relationships among the variables examined. Additional study is needed to potentially confirm, revise, or extend these results and conclusions.

Conclusion

This study identifies that faculty moderately recognize and academic advisers strongly recognize the benefits of intrusive advising. While the benefits are acknowledged, the study also identifies that academic advisers and faculty feel that rigorous intrusive advising, with all its components, is almost certainly not feasible. The study does demonstrate that faculty members and academic advisers value retention and student success and do see the benefits of intrusive advising overall. Therefore, this study suggests practices from faculty members, academic advisers, and other staff in the institution that may allow components of intrusive advising to be sustainably implemented. We must remember that “it costs more to lose students than make this investment and retain the students” (Stuart, 2010, p. 23).

References

ACT. (2015). The condition of college & career readiness 2015 (Data file). Retrieved from http://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Condition-of-College-and-Career-Readiness-Report-2015-United-States.pdf.

Baker, V. L., & Griffin, K. A. (2010). Beyond mentoring and advising: toward understanding the role of faculty “developers” in student success. About Campus, 14(6), 2-8.

Boretz, E. (2012). Midsemester academic interventions in a student-centered research university. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 42(2), 90-108.

Engle, J., Tinto, V., & Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher, E. (2008). Moving beyond access: college success for low-income, first-generation students. Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

Fowler, P. R., & Boylan, H. R. (2010). Increasing student success and retention: a multidimensional approach. Journal of Developmental Education, 34(2), 2-10.

Habley, W. R. (1997). Organizational models and institutional advising practices. NACADA Journal, 17(2), 39-44

Keeling, S. (2003). Advising the millennial generation. NACADA Journal, 23(1&2), 30–36.

Kena, G., Aud, S., Johnson, F., Wang, X., Zhang, J., Rathbun, A., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., & Kristapovich, P., Notter, L., Robles-Villalba, V, Nachazel, T, Dzuba, A.  (2014). The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014-083). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.

King, N. (2004). Advising Underprepared Students. Paper presented at the NACADA Summer Institute on Advising, Chicago, IL.

Miller, M.A. & Murray, C. (2005). Advising academically underprepared students.

NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academically-underprepared-students.aspx.

Rodgers, K., Blunt, S., & Trible, L. (2014). A real PLUSS: an intrusive advising program for underprepared STEM students. NACADA Journal, 34(1), 35-42.

Schee, B. V. (2007). Adding insight to intrusive advising and its effectiveness with students on probation. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 50-59.

Schreiner, L. A., Noel, P., Anderson, E., & Cantwell, L. (2011). The impact of faculty and staff on high-risk college student persistence. Journal of College Student Development , 52, 321-338.

Schwebel, D. C., Walburn, N. C., Klyce, K., & Jerrolds, K. L. (2012). Efficacy of advising outreach on student retention, academic progress and achievement, and frequency of advising contacts: a longitudinal randomized trial. NACADA Journal, 32(2), 36-43.

Stuart, R. (2010). Early detection. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 27(18), 22-24.

Swecker, H. K., Fifolt, M., & Searby, L. (2014). Academic advising and first-generation college students: a quantitative study on student retention. NACADA Journal, 34(1), 46-53.

Thompson, C.A. (2016, September). Faculty advising strategies in a climate of reduced resources. Academic Advising Today, 39(3). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Faculty-Advising-Strategies-in-a-Climate-of-Reduced-Resources.aspx.

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). First-time postsecondary students in 2011-12: three year retention and attainment at first institution (Data file). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016137.pdf.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Pietro Sasso - Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Pietro Sasso is an Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director of College Student Personnel Administration at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Dr. Sasso can be reached at PSasso@siue.edu.

Danie Schneider, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Danie Schneider, MSED is an Academic Advisor in Office of Student Services in the School of Education, Health, and Human Behavior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She can be reached at daschne@siue.edu.

Discuss This Article

 



     ISSN: 1521-2211