Appreciative Advising Promises Student-Centered Growth

The Practice Calls On Educators to Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, and Keep the Bar High

Appreciative Advising

A number of forces are converging to revolutionize the American education system, and chances are likely that parents today would not recognize their children’s classrooms. Those changes range from the adoption of technology as a learning tool to imaginative teaching philosophies.

Leading education consultant Amanda Propst Cuevas outlines one of those teaching philosophies—Appreciative Advising—in her webinar for Eli Education, “Transforming the Student Experience: An Introduction to Appreciative Advising.” Using simple principles that you can put into practice immediately, she explains how to engage students, help them make key improvements, and include them in goal setting.

6 Steps to Success

Appreciative Advising is “the intentional collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potentials,” notes one group, Appreciative Education, which conducts training workshops across the nation.

The process has six phases:

  • Build rapport and create a safe, welcoming space
  • Ask open-ended questions to discover a student’s abilities
  • Ask the students what their dreams are
  • Design a plan with the students to achieve their dreams
  • Put the plan in place
  • Set high expectations and don’t settle for less

The movement already has books, articles, an inventory, and an open-access online journal.

Among other benefits, appreciative advising can help student retention, notes Learning House, a student resources center.

“Appreciative advising is both simple and incredibly difficult: It is the idea that taking a fully student-centered approach to advising helps build long-lasting relationships tailored to student needs and leading to success,” said Learning House’s Todd Zipper. “We want students to recognize they do belong in school, and they have the capacity to succeed.”

Focus Students on Their Successes—Then Build on Them

One key to this new style of advising is to focus on the positive and move past the negative, noted Thomas Dickson, the assistant vice president of undergraduate education at the University of California at Riverside.

“The counselor in me was screaming that there was more I could do. I should be able to foster a more welcoming environment and encourage the student to come back for more return sessions and more meaningful sessions for both of us,” Dickson wrote. “I felt like the advising sessions were perhaps too negative, focused on deficits, and there was more I could do to support the student.”

Much of the improvement promised by Appreciative Advising can come through disarming and discovering—through approaching students who are struggling academically by figuring out what, in spite of those difficulties, they are doing well. A student with an ‘F’ in chemistry and an ‘A’ in history, notes Cuevas and some of her colleagues, is obviously doing something right.

First, you have students review the strategies they use when they perform well in class, Cuevas et al explained; then, they can identify which strategies might be useful to apply in areas where they are currently struggling.

Of course, the benefits to the program don’t end with good grades: They can help your career as an educator, too. “Appreciative Advising can have a positive impact on those advisors who use it in their advising practice and can lead to greater job satisfaction for academic advisors,” summarized a study by a researcher at the University of Nebraska. “Identifying advisor strengths and assigning office tasks according to these strengths would also make for a more efficient work climate.”

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Jeff Schmerker
About Jeff Schmerker
Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.