With the addition of history to the title of the Theory, Philosophy, and History of Advising Commission of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, the time has come to reflect on this growing commission as a means to track and record the growth and development of the theoretical debates and questions regarding the field of academic advising. Therefore, I present the rise of the Theory, Philosophy, and History Commission through the lens of two founding members: Marc Lowenstein and Peter Hagen. I also provide insight into the trajectory of dialogue reflected in conference presentations, publications, and primary source documents from NACADA and others.
The articles in this issue concern rarely studied advising-related phenomena, ranging in topics from institutional loyalty to a relatively new paradigm shift in higher education. In the opening article, Jörg Vianden presents research findings that suggest a positive relationship between students' perceived quality of academic advising and their loyalty to their institution of higher education. The next three articles concern different student cohorts: Paul Donaldson, Lyle McKinney, Mimi Lee, and Diana Pino describe first-year community college students' perceptions of intrusive advising practices; Marilee Teasley and Erin Buchanan report on a national study investigating the relationships between perceived academic advisor support, basic psychological needs, and burnout in undergraduate music majors; and Christy Moran Craft, Donna Augustine-Shaw, Amanda Fairbanks, and Gayla Adams-Wright finish this trifecta with a discussion of academic advising information communicated in documents provided to doctoral students in education programs. The final article by Giovanna Walters concerns the role of academic advising in a competency-based higher education environment.
In addition to these articles, we are pleased that Shannon Lynn Burton has written a guest editorial concerning academic advising theory. Using qualitative research methodology, Burton has conducted interviews with Marc Lowenstein and Peter Hagen to develop an account of alternative perspectives debated among academic advisors both in print as well as in conference presentations. In the process, she compiled a history of the NACADA Theory, Philosophy, and History of Advising Commission from its inception as an interest group to the present. We believe that this is a valuable resource for readers interested in advising theory development and serves as a significant archival document for NACADA as an organization.
The Debate Begins: The Rise of Alternate Perspectives in Academic Advising Theory
Shannon Lynn Burton, Michigan State University
Because of the addition of history to the title of the NACADA Theory, Philosophy, and History of Advising Commission (TPHAC) in 2013 (NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising [NACADA], 2015a), the time seems appropriate to reflect on the history of this growing commission and record the growth and development of the theoretical issues in the advising field. The mission of the TPHAC states (NACADA, 2015a):
Our focus is the self-reflexive work of examining the theoretical, philosophical and historical foundations of academic advising, in addition to supporting theory building initiatives and their applications. We welcome the study of academic advising from any theoretical vantage point and look to incorporate theory in new ways. We seek to promote the study and understanding of theory, philosophy, and the historical foundations related to academic advising, and to support and encourage conference presentations, publications, and research in these areas. We seek to develop and advance philosophical and historical reflection in the field of academic advising both within NACADA and outside associations, administration, faculty and other stakeholders.
The establishment of the TPHAC history is examined through a conversation with two of its forebears: Peter Hagen and Marc Lowenstein. Hagen, the initial chair for the interest group that spawned the TPHAC, guided the transition of the group into a NACADA commission (2000-2007). Hagen received the 2012 Theory, Practice and Delivery Cluster CIG [commission and interest group] Service Award and the 2007 Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising. Lowenstein received the 2014 Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising and the 2011 Service to Commission Award for his contributions to the theory and philosophy of academic advising. On October 6, 2013, Sarah Champlin-Scharff (Chair, TPHAC, 2011-2013) and Shannon Lynn Burton (Chair, TPHAC 2009-2011) met with both Hagen and Lowenstein to ask them about the establishment of the TPHAC. Through the 90-minute conversation and examination of primary source documents, the history of the TPHAC—the space to discuss ideas centering on academic advising—unfolded.
The Early Years
The NACADA Theory and Philosophy Interest Group was officially created in 2000 after a circle of self-described “rebels and misfits” (P. Hagen & M. Lowenstein, personal communication, October 6, 2013) began to explore alternate theoretical views of advising. Before the late 1990s, advising practice leaned heavily on developmental theory. At the 1995 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the advising community pointed out that the conference sessions did not necessarily reflect topics corresponding with their disciplinary backgrounds and advising experiences. At the time these self-described rebels and misfits were expressing noted gaps in ways that advisors critically examined their work, presentations on alternate advising theories also emerged:
Toward a Theory of Academic Advising (Steele & Gordon, 1995);
Workshop: How to Construct a Central Theory of Developmental Advising (Laff & Levy, 1996);
Toward a Theory of Academic Advising II (Steele, Laff, Levy, Fisher, & Habley, 1996);
Toward a Theory of Academic Advising III (Steele, Laff, Levy, & Darling, 1997); and
Toward a Theory of Advising: Continuing the Conversation (Lowenstein, Grites, & Hagen, 1997).
However, Hagen and Lowenstein noted that a presentation at the 20th Annual NACADA Conference in Washington, DC, revealed a new angle on theory. This 1996 panel session, Toward a Theory of Academic Advising II, is described by the abstract provided in the conference materials:
Last year a dialogue began with the question of whether it is possible and desirable to establish a theoretical or conceptual framework for academic advising. This roundtable session will continue the discussion this year, focusing on four issues: (1) What is the role of research in the construction of theory? (2) What is the role of other disciplines' theoretical foundations upon theories for academic advising, and how should we integrate them into a more comprehensive advising theory? (3) What is the relationship between personal beliefs about advising practice and advising theory? (4) How do methodological concerns and selection of desired outcomes (i.e., retention, outcome based learning, or standardized measures) for advising influence the construction of an advising theory? The presenters will develop these ideas and discuss implications for the construction of a comprehensive advising theory. Participants will be encouraged to contribute their ideas and opinions. (Steele et al., 1996)
The panel expanded the discussion on alternate views. In the following year, Thomas Grites joined Lowenstein and Hagen to present Toward a Theory of Advising: Continuing the Conversation:
Last year, panelists at a roundtable discussion on theory asked: “What is the role of other disciplines' theoretical foundations upon theories for academic advising, and how should we integrate them into a more comprehensive advising theory?” We wish to continue the conversation begun by this question. Other disciplines' theoretical foundations do have a role in theory building for the field of academic advising. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that we can build a comprehensive theory of academic advising from the ground up without building upon other disciplines that are either cognate to advising, such as counseling and communication, or that help us understand our clients and the contexts in which we practice, such as human development and education. Theory building in academic advising must be architectonic, spanning social science and humanities and building upon them both. Currently, quantitative social science perspectives seem to dominate our lone journal. We tend to overlook theoretical foundations from fields such as drama, literature, history, language, philosophy, and rhetoric—fields that began establishing theoretical foundations in the days of one of the earliest recorded advisor/advisee relationships: that between Socrates and Phaedrus. Panelists will offer examples of how both humanistic and social science theories can be integrated into a comprehensive advising theory and will invite discussion from attendees. We do not seek to undermine the solidity that social science or developmental theories have brought to academic advising, but to assert that our arch may stand more strongly and more elegantly with some stones from other fields. (Lowenstein et al., 1997)
As described by Hagen and Lowenstein, the misfits engaged in conversations and presentations that encouraged examinations into ways theory applies to academic advising. In their October 2013 conversation, Hagen and Lowenstein reflected on those early discussions:
Hagen: “We fell outside the dominant paradigm and wanted to talk about other things.”
Lowenstein: “Neither of us had been raised on doing empirical research on the things that developmental advising seemed to think we should do the research on and it just felt like we think we are interested in advising but we don't seem to be interested in what these other people are interested in.”
Hagen: “Right, for years, even before coming to Stockton in 1996 when I was still at Penn State, I had a job in the Division of Undergraduate Studies advising undecided students, and most all of my colleagues came from the background of counseling psychology and I felt like an outsider being someone who had two degrees in English and was working on a dissertation in speech communication–rhetorical theory. I knew that what I learned in literature and speech communication really helped me in advising. But there was no way I could convince my colleagues of that. I felt like an outsider because I didn't know statistics at all.”
These discussions and experiences inspired Hagen and Lowenstein to seek out others who, like them, felt that they had ideas to contribute to advising, and in 1998 at the 22nd Annual NACADA Conference in San Diego, they were pleased to attend a session titled Toward a Theory of Advising: A Contribution from Small Colleges by Martha Hemwall and Kent Trachte, who spoke to their concerns:
At the 1997 national conference, presenters and participants challenged the view that advising as a practice is and should be founded upon developmental theory. We heard arguments that developmental models have alienated faculty, that advising resembles an act of Socratic dialogue, that narrative theory offers a language that better describes the advising process, and that advising is the art of teaching critical thinking. These views resonate with advisers at small colleges, which have a long history of treating academic advising as connected integrally to the teaching and learning relationship and where few faculty advisers work in a way that is consciously informed by developmental theory. This session contributes to this national conversation from a small college perspective.
Presenters will begin by asking what we mean by the term “theory of advising.” Do we, as advising professionals, intend to describe a method, a process or a relationship? Next, presenters will consider some of the metaphors and concepts that contribute to our understanding of advising. Finally, presenters will propose that we think of advising using the concept of praxis, the entangling of theory and practice in a dynamic relationship. The presentation highlights practices at small colleges that inform our attempt at theorizing and explains why insights developed in small college settings may be useful to advisers in other institutional contexts. (Hemwall & Trachte, 1998)
In reflecting on Hemwall and Trachte's (1998) presentation, Lowenstein and Hagen voiced the following observations (personal communication, October 6, 2013):
Lowenstein: “Because that is what they [Hemwall and Trachte] had in common: They both came from small liberal arts colleges, and in their minds, the hegemony of the developmental model was a feature of the large research university where advising was done by staff people who came from social science backgrounds. Which the kinds of schools they worked at it was done by faculty who had different kinds of assumptions in their work.”
Hagen: “They [Hemwall and Trachte] recognized, and I think they stated it the first time, which back then it was a radical plan, that you could go through the developmental stages outside of higher education. You didn't need higher education to foster development. And, so they knew that, from their small college perspective that the developmental theory just didn't hold enough water.”
Hemwall and Trachte's first published piece in the NACADA Journal “Learning at the Core: Toward a New Understanding of Academic Advising” in 1999 was based on their 1998 presentation. They summarized their position as follows:
We argue that the model of developmental academic advising should be abandoned and replaced by alternative theoretical traditions. We draw upon some recent critiques of the student development movement to suggest that the developmental academic advising movement has lost sight of the central mission of higher education. We indicate that other theories about advising are more promising, and we offer the educational concept of praxis as an alternative way of thinking about academic advising. (Hemwall & Trachte, 1999b, p. 5)
Their presentation and subsequent article prompted additional conversations around theory and academic advising. Additional sessions centering on the theory of academic advising continued to build on these first conversations. As a result, others began examining options and sharing their views on advising practice and theory:
These publications, presentations, and shared experiences encouraged Hagen, Lowenstein, Trachte, and Hemwall (1999) to discuss theory throughout the 22nd NACADA Annual Conference in 1998, which led to a joint presentation at the 23rd Annual NACADA Conference in Denver: Toward an Architectonics of Advising Theory. Contributors to this session laid out alternatives to the developmental perspective:
While there is no “official” theory of academic advising, the ruling paradigm still seems to be developmental advising, which arose with the growth of the field of student affairs. In this roundtable, we will discuss the possibility that it may be time for a paradigm shift, that developmental theory can no longer account for the whole of academic advising because it only looks upon advising from one aspect of advising: the developmental stages of the individual student. There are other aspects of academic advising of equal importance that can anchor theories with as much or more explanatory power. One example is praxis theory, which is anchored in education theory. This theory looks at advising as that which brings about critical self-reflection and moves a student toward liberal learning. On this view, an advisor is someone with phronesis—practical wisdom and high-mindedness—who leads, guides, and attracts a student to the higher learning. Another pair of examples stems from the aspect of academic advising seen as an act of communication between the advisor and advisee. Both narrative theory and dialectic theory have to do with the interaction that occurs between the two interlocutors in the dialogue. Is it time for a paradigm shift? Should there be an architectonics of advising theories? (Hagen et al., 1999)
According to Hagen (personal communication, October 6, 2013), this presentation generated a lot of conversation in the hotel lobby and other areas outside the symposium:
And, we still saw ourselves as a group of renegades and misfits because we weren't buying into the dominant paradigm and, and so that's when the interest group was formed. But right from the start, we didn't want to say “Okay, we are the rebels on the outside.” We wanted to be all-inclusive and include people who took the developmental perspective as well. So, that's how it started.
Hagen's account of the motives of interest group members cannot be overemphasized. Although not everyone in the group was happy with developmental advising as the cornerstone theory, the group did not seek to overturn the dominant developmental paradigm, nor did they waiver from the mission to offer alternative perspectives. Lowenstein (personal communication, March 27, 2015) explained:
The people most likely to become aware of the hegemony of the development paradigm were naturally those who had problems with it—but it was just as natural that it would be those people who wanted to create an organized space for discussing such matters.
Hagen took on the administrative work of creating the formal Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group, which was proposed in 1999 at the 23rd Annual NACADA Conference, and outlined the purpose of the interest group: “To foster the study of the theory and philosophy of academic advising, without promoting any one theory to the exclusion of others. Our aim is to discuss theoretical frameworks and how they affect practice” (Hagen, 1999). The group proposed the following initial activities:
to seek to raise awareness of the importance of theory and philosophy with the general membership of NACADA by encouraging the submission of conference presentations . . . create a Listserv dedicated to discussion of the theory and philosophy of academic advising . . . seek to alter the NACADA membership application, which currently offers only two choices for theoretical orientation . . . [and] seek to establish a special issue of the NACADA Journal devoted to the theory and philosophy of academic advising as well as to encourage members to write and publish articles for the Journal and for The Mentor. (Hagen, 1999)
Hagen asked Lowenstein to develop the presentation given in Denver at the 23rd Annual NACADA Conference into an article. Although the concept of developmental advising as a theory inspired discourse among those involved in the interest group and commission, Lowenstein published, “An Alternative to the Developmental Theory of Advising” (1999) in The Mentor. Lowenstein and Hagen (personal communication, October 6, 2013) outlined the reasons NACADA needed the new interest group:
Lowenstein: “It's a Socratic thing—an unexamined life is not worth living. I have quoted a few times something that someone said—and I don't know who he was, at that very first meeting we went to in Washington—someone in the audience got up during the Q and A period and said ‘I don't see why we need to do this theory stuff, because we are doing just fine without it.' And my first thought was, ‘Doing just fine by what criteria? What is your measuring stick? What do you think is the purpose of advising? You must think you are doing that, whatever it is. But that is a theory.'”
Hagen: “It's important to focus our lenses and how hard it is to examine the lens that you use to examine things with. But that is our task, to focus on the lens.”
Hagen (2001a) discussed the goal of examination in “Focusing on the Lens Itself: Theory and Philosophy of Academic Advising,” published in Academic Advising News (the predecessor of Academic Advising Today). Lowenstein also emphasized the vital role of evaluation (personal communication, October 6, 2013): “If you haven't articulated it [philosophy of advising], you haven't subjected it to a critical analysis; you don't have a philosophy.”
Many individuals in the field who articulate their philosophies may confuse philosophy and opinion. Lowenstein (personal communication, May 23, 2015) explained:
An opinion might be about any subject, however trivial. (“I think you should wear different pants with that shirt.”) For example it could be about an empirical matter (“I think State U will win this game”) or a normative matter (“I think capital punishment is wrong”). It may or may not have any careful thinking behind it or any thinking at all. It may be very compact—i.e., expressed in a single sentence, as in all the examples so far.
A philosophy on the other hand is generally about a matter that is either normative or that has to do with meaning or the fundamental nature of things, but is unlikely to be about an empirical matter. To be worthy of the name “philosophy,” it should be a product of systematic, critical thought. It would be strange for someone to express a philosophy and admit to having no argument for it, but this is not in general true of an opinion. A philosophy is a complex system of propositions, comprising a main point and subordinate ones related to it in ways that can be laid out.
The very word “philosophy” is value-laden, implying some level of approval, even where the philosophy in question is one that you disagree with. To have formulated a philosophy is to have accomplished something.
We use the word “philosophy” colloquially in contexts where some of the above conditions aren't necessarily met. Consider a baseball manager: “My philosophy is to play for a tie at home but gamble for the win on the road.” Speaking more carefully we might call that a strategy. Lots of terms that have technical meanings in their academic disciplines also have less formal uses of this sort. That won't confuse anyone who understands the more formal usage but it might confuse someone who is only familiar with the colloquial usage.
So an opinion about advising could be almost anything: “I think advising will be more dependent on asynchronous communication in the future”; “I think advisors should be more proactive”; “I think advisors should be paid more.” A philosophy of advising will be a comprehensive statement of the essential nature and purpose of advising, made up of a number of sub-parts.
From the perspective of those who joined the commission, Lowenstein (personal communication, October 6, 2013) pointed to the confusion about theory and philosophy that explains the growth and importance of the initial interest group and the subsequently formed Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission:
The word theory has meaning, somewhat different meaning, in many different disciplines, and three quarters or more of advisors are raised intellectually on social and behavioral sciences where theory has a certain meaning and theory is testable, empirical. But then theory has meaning in math, where nothing is empirically testable. . . . Theory has a meaning in philosophy. Theory has a meaning, maybe not a consistent meaning, in literary studies. Anyway, when I use the word theory in the context of expression of the theory of advising, I think I am using it in a way that is essentially synonymous with philosophy. . . . And I am acutely aware of the terrible confusion that can come from people who are not familiar with that kind of use of the word theory at all. They just don't know what do with it. . . . One of the ways in which we need to broaden our diet is that, you know, we need to grow up and learn that there is more than one way of knowing out there.
Hagen (personal communication, October 6, 2013) described the ambiguity surrounding theory in advising:
I also want to celebrate the fact that theories from so many new disciplines are coming into the field even though they are not theories of advising. I don't know, for example, the two experts are right here, I don't know whether it would be the theory of advising; it would have to be the articulate assumption, or is it a philosophy of advising? I just don't know that; I don't know enough.
Clearly, those involved in the early years of the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group worked to create a platform for all theoretical perspectives to be examined within a critical light as they related to the field of academic advising. Individuals who identified with this period noted that their experiences varied based on institutional type, disciplinary background, and advising role, and they sought ways to explain their experiences and share their stories to define a theory of advising, an individual philosophy of advising, and the perspectives that create scaffolding for the work of academic advisors. As these thought leaders found a voice through the interest group, more practitioners and scholars entered the conversation.
The Middle Ages
Beginning in the academic year 1999–2000, the NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group membership grew at a very rapid rate, expanding from 143 members on the NACADA Theory and Philosophy Listserv in February 2000 to 234 members on the Listserv the next year (Hagen, 2001b). As of 2015, it boasted a membership of 735 (E. Shaffer, NACADA Executive Office, personal communication, May 21, 2015). In those early years, Hagen noted that people flocked to meetings and interesting conversations would transpire, but not much scholarship was generated. Lowenstein (personal communication, October 6, 2013) explained that this outcome is based on the belief that advisors are “doing” theory and philosophy when they engage in conversations related to theory. However, because so many expressed extensive enthusiasm, the interest group needed to establish projects that moved the discussions forward.
At the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group inaugural meeting, the attendees discussed the purpose, goals, and means of accomplishing research and publication objectives. They also addressed the option of pursuing commission status (Hagen, 2000a). They articulated the large goal of encouraging article submissions to the NACADA Journal, Academic Advising News, and The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Published by Pennsylvania State University, the first issue of The Mentor was posted in January 1999, which reflected the cultural shifts in the field, particularly in terms of theory and philosophy (The Mentor, 2015). In fact, Lowenstein (1999) published “An Alternative to the Developmental Theory of Advising” in this initial issue. According to The Mentor (2015),
the goal of the journal [The Mentor] is to provide a mechanism for the rapid dissemination of new ideas about advising and for ongoing discourse about advising issues. Toward this goal, articles in the journal are published continuously. Each article is archived and is accessible online indefinitely.
Although the journal encourages the submission of research-based articles, it also seeks articles based on the theory and philosophy of academic advising, descriptions of exemplary practices in advising and innovative advising programs, summaries of conference presentations, personal perspectives and reflections, and other concise forms of writing related to advising.
The Mentor reflects the response to calls for a different examination of the field of academic advising than offered by the NACADA Journal, which Hagen explained was edited by an experimental psychologist who preferred quantitative studies. Hagen (personal communication, October 6, 2013) related a conversation regarding the NACADA Journal submission process:
Anyway, quantitative, there was no room for qualitative study, there was no room for a theoretical piece. Just a loose philosophical piece. In fact, Marty [Hemwall] and Kent [Trachte], I remember, they wrote me saying, “Should we submit this to the NACADA Journal?” They had not been rejected, but had a lot of critique and they were ready to take it elsewhere or abandon the project, and I said “no” and “to stay with it,” and they made a few changes and squeaked under the wire and got it published. Which, that was their article.
Hemwall and Trachte's theory article to which Hagen referred was published in the Spring 1999 issue of the NACADA Journal. The editor stated the following about their piece in “From the Editor” (Freund, 1999):
The lead article in this issue, Learning at the Core: Toward a New Understanding of Academic Advising, is not a typical research or review article. Based on their years of experience in advising at small colleges, and their review of the literature, Drs. Trachte and Hemwall raise some interesting and provocative questions. It was not their intent, nor mine in accepting the article for publication, to rekindle any antagonism between professional and faculty advisors. I see their goal as offering another theoretical framework under which advising, and its overall role at an academic institution, may be viewed. My goal in publishing the article is to present readers with a different, perhaps controversial, view of advising, and to spark some discussion.
With alternate perspectives entering mainstream advising discussions, and theory and philosophy emerging as hot topics in the field, the interest group sought to create a paradigm shift in published manuscripts. To achieve this objective, Hagen served as guest editor for the NACADA Journal for an issue featuring an examination of theory and philosophy. Hagen summarized the rationale for the publishing goal (personal communication, October 6, 2013):
I wanted, this field grew from a field of practitioners, and I knew that we needed a firmer base of the theory so, my image at the time was like the banyan tree that sends its roots down kind of after the fact. We have to have roots. . . . So, I proposed the idea.
The special edition of the NACADA Journal was proposed in 2003 to the incoming editors, Terry Kuhn and Gary Padak. Hagen continued the narrative (personal communication, October 6, 2013):
I remember having lunch with them [Kuhn and Padak]. I gave them a handwritten sheet of paper with all the possible articles. You know, “Marc could write on this and this” and “you can have this” and so they looked at me like I was crazy. . . . But, they said “Okay.” Marsha [Miller] was just fairly new in her position at that point, so she was really excited about it too! So, Marsha promoted the idea to Terry and Gary, saying “He's not a kook. You have to listen to him.” And so two years later it came out, in an effort to broaden the theory base. Same reasoning was behind the monograph [Scholarly Inquiry in Academic Advising (Hagen, Kuhn, & Padak, 2010)].
In “From the Co-Editors: On the Scholarship of Academic Advising” for the NACADA Journal special edition, published in Fall 2005, Kuhn and Padak recognized the expansion of the theoretical base:
Since the significant NACADA Journal issue on developmental advising theory was published in 1994, the field of academic advising has expanded and evolved. Yet the importance of theory remains as stated by former Journal Editor Howard K. Schein (1994, p. 4): “A solid theoretical base gives us the ability to grow, to incorporate new phenomena, and to work effectively with the increasingly diverse populations that need our help.” To that thought we would add our own firm belief in the fundamental importance of linking theory to advising practice and research. (p. 2)
Hagen (2005), in his “From the Guest Editor” piece, also bolstered the sentiment regarding the importance of appreciating various perspectives:
This Journal issue is intended as an example of how different perspectives on advising can flourish together in the same place. Taken singly, each essay is an example of how one might theorize about advising. My hope is that future researchers will find much richness here and use these essays as a springboard to future insights. None of them taken singly nor all in combination can be regarded as a complete theory of advising. There is still much labor ahead for future theorists. (p. 6)
Since the time that the special issue appeared, the scope of the NACADA Journal has expanded. The current mission of the NACADA Journal states:
The NACADA Journal exists to advance scholarly discourse about the research, theory, and practice of academic advising in higher education. The NACADA definition of research (NACADA Task Force on Infusion of Research, 2008) views research as “scholarly inquiry into all aspects of the advising interaction, the role of advising in higher education, and the effects that advising can have on students.” This is, in part, based on Boyer's (1990) four elements of scholarship of discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Research, theory, and practice are therefore three very different enterprises. (NACADA, 2015b, ¶1)
As membership grew in the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group and The Mentor and the NACADA Journal attracted authors writing on theories and philosophy, theory garnered attention as an area of inquiry. During this time of growth, the discussion first initiated by the misfits and rebels on the variety of perspectives was embraced by a growing advising constituency.
Entering the Mainstream
After the forum for discussion expanded, the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Interest Group opted to seek NACADA commission status because it had evolved into one of the “largest and most vital interest groups within NACADA” (Hagen, 2006). The proposal stated: “Members of NACADA realize that serious thought and discourse about the nature of academic advising is logically prior to the practice of academic advising and have signed up for the interest group in large numbers” (Hagen, 2006).
Hagen and Lowenstein also noted the increasing support of the NACADA Executive Office for expanding conversations on theory. They made the point that theory, encapsulated in the term scholarship, is featured among the seven strategic goals of the organization:
Expand and communicate the scholarship of academic advising
Provide professional development opportunities that are responsive to the needs of advisors and advising administrators
Promote the role of effective academic advising in student success to college and university decision makers
Create an inclusive environment within the Association that promotes diversity
Develop and sustain effective Association leadership
Engage in ongoing assessment of all facets of the Association
Pursue innovative technology tools and resources to support the Association (NACADA, 2015c, ¶3)
The term scholarship was added to the goals to explain the need to “advance the body of knowledge of academic advising” (E. Shaffer, personal communication, March 5, 2015).
Hagen continued to serve as chair as the group transitioned to a commission, completing his term in 2007 after seven years. Both Hagen and Lowenstein no longer feel like misfits, but part of the mainstream, especially after the NACADA leadership approved the establishment of the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission. Hagen noted a great deal of support for this change from an interest group to a commission and pointed to “new people coming along,” such as Jeff McClellan from Frostburg State University, who served as Chair of the Commission from 2007 to 2009, and Shannon Lynn Burton from Michigan State University, who served in that role from 2009 to 2011 (NACADA, 2015d).
Yes, he [McClellan] was writing theory, and there were others, and it was just starting to gain some momentum and it was time to make it uh, less casual. People realizing that it was really one of the fundamental aspects of advising. (P. Hagen, personal communication, October 6, 2013)
In 2008, as theory and philosophy continued to inspire discussions among the mainstream association members, Hagen, Kuhn, and Padak (2008) proposed publishing a monograph titled Scholarly Inquiry in Academic Advising: “This book is primarily designed as a vade mecum for researchers in academic advising to help them formulate research questions, structure their research, point to useful theoretical and methodological approaches, guide analysis, and help find publication outlets.” In discussing the proposal, Hagen et al. (2008) further described the vacuum that the book would fill for the advising and the broader higher education communities:
The main reason why no such book is adequate is that research in academic advising is not limited to social and behavioral science research, but also includes critical inquiry research approaches grounded in the humanities, such as philosophy (hermeneutics) and literature (narrative theory, reader-response theory). Merely rehashing research design, sampling, and qualitative versus quantitative methodologies will not suffice for academic advising. Rather, they would be part of a far more comprehensive approach to research in academic advising that would include humanistic approaches to the construction of knowledge.
The Publications Advisory Board recommended acceptance of the monograph proposal, and the volume was subsequently published in 2010 (Hagen et al., 2010). The monograph serves as a companion piece to NACADA's other publications that advance the scholarly initiatives of the organization. Chapters include “A Field Guide to Epistemology in Academic Advising Research” by Sarah Champlin-Scharff (2010); “Generating Scholarship from Theory and Previous Research” by Rich Robbins (2010); and “The Theoretical Evolution of Theory Based Scholarship Within Academic Advising” by Jeffrey L. McClellan (2010). Each of these chapters examines the use of theory in research for academic advising from a different perspective.
Additionally, as part of the mainstream, the commission solicited and advocated for conference sessions and articles with broader diversity. Topics sponsored by the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission in recent years have included:
Toward a New Curriculum for Advisor Education (Hagen & Shaffer, 2012);
Queer Theory Meets Advising (Carlson, 2012);
Theory and Philosophy of Advising: What is the State of the Art? (Lowenstein & Hagen, 2012);
John Dewey: Academic Advisor? (Xyst, 2013);
Envisioning the Future of Advising (Lowenstein, 2013);
I See You: Using the Philosophy of Martin Buber to Inform Advising (Leiberman Colgan, 2013);
Just Tell Me What I Want to Hear: Biases and Heuristics in Decision-Making (Ryan, 2014); and
Holy Cow II: The Quest Continues: Adventures in Advising in Religious Studies (Sano-Franchini & Kirk-Kuwaye, 2014).
Despite the advances in theory and philosophy made within NACADA, members of the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission recognized the struggle to understand theory and philosophy as the terms apply to the field. As a result, for a short time, the commission sponsored a special segment in Academic Advising Today titled “Theoretical Reflections” that was overseen by Shannon Lynn Burton (Chair, TPHAC, 2009-2011) and Sarah Champlin-Scharff (Chair, TPHAC, 2011-2013). The commission invited a number of authors to address specific issues. The topics included:
Due to a platform change for Academic Advising Today, the abbreviated special section pieces were set aside to accommodate full articles.
In September 2013, the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission also addressed the struggle to advance theory and philosophy by sponsoring a NACADA webinar: Emerging Issues in Academic Advising Theory (Hagen, Champlin-Scharff, Schulenberg, Lowenstein, & Himes, 2013). According to the official description of the event, the webinar panelists considered the following questions:
Where do the theory and philosophy of advising stand today?
Where are they headed?
How is theory related to our practice?
Is there a difference between “theory” and “philosophy” and if so, how are they related?
What theories of advising are represented in the most important literature on the subject?
How should our limited ability to know our students affect how we think about the nature of advising?
What will a successful theory of advising accomplish?
Through this webinar, the commission hoped to engage the broader advising community in conversations at the 37th Annual NACADA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2013. Despite these efforts, the confusion of language related to the commission and the broad scope of theories used in advising practice—from normative to analogical to developmental—remains. Thus, the commission continues to work toward improving clarity and cultivating meaningful discussions.
A Short Reflection on the Addition of History
After initially mainstreaming exploration of theories and philosophies as well as opening a dialogue for critical inquiry into the field, the NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission added History to its mission and title. The term was included as the result of a conversation between then-Chair, Shannon Lynn Burton, Marc Lowenstein, Eric White, Peg Steele, and George Steele over breakfast during the 2010 NACADA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. Attempts to create a history of academic advising interest group, based on an article written by Virginia Gordon in 2004 on the history of academic advising at the Ohio State University, failed to transpire (P. Steele, personal communication, May 27, 2015). Individuals interested in addressing the history of the field had met before the annual NACADA conference for four consecutive years before creating a proposal for an interest group (P. Steele, personal communication, May 27, 2015). The initial 2007 proposal expressed a goal of examining the time line of advising, and the principals acknowledged attempts at recording aspects of the history of academic advising and the goal to “stimulate writing more articles for publication” and “encourage a discussion of the role of academic advising and NACADA in higher education and at specific colleges and universities both nationally and internationally” (E. White, personal communication, May 21, 2015). These goals were articulated as (White, 2007) follows:
encourage group members to conduct historical research;
encourage group members in graduate schools to do research on advising history;
encourage oral histories;
provide support, if needed, to the NACADA Journal editors as they look to produce a history of NACADA;
establish some sort of registry for people who are doing historical research or are interested in conducting such research.
At the time of the initial proposal, the group had no interest in moving to commission status. The proposal noted that 10 individuals attended the planning meeting in 2007 at the 31st Annual NACADA Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and an additional 59 individuals had signed up for a Listserv. The group did not gain the traction needed to remain viable as an independent entity, and discussions ensued among members of the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission to subsume the interest group.
History and theory are inextricably linked. Examination of history helps individuals understand the present. Specifically, by considering the decisions, forces, and contexts that lead to a current moment, historians conceptualize and provide descriptions of phenomena and the circumstances that culminate in a particular event. They explore the conditions that allowed for or supported the event as well as the processes through which an event evolves. To explain the addition of a history component to the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission, Lowenstein (personal communication, October 6, 2013) stated:
Studying the history of something is a way of studying its presuppositions. What did those people at Johns Hopkins and Harvard think was the purpose? That's why we included that in our webinar and in our presentation. Janet [Schulenberg] does it; Janet has studied the history better than just about anybody else right now. But she didn't just study, you know, how they organize it, who was the first advisor?. . . It was interpretive history, it was about presuppositions and goals. Studying the history of any human endeavor ought to be a way of getting at what the people who were doing it thought they were trying to accomplish, so I think it's a very natural fit and since I didn't see the interest group going anywhere, I thought it was a great idea when it was proposed to add it in.
Ultimately, including a history component as a part of the mission of the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission offered members a means for piecing together the meanings and intentions that contribute to advising through archival materials, oral histories, and other methods typical of inquiry. The new dimension encourages advisors to examine the purpose of academic advising within historical context.
Based on the positive aspects of historical inquiry and the relationship between theory and history, the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission membership, under the direction of the then-Chair Shannon Lynn Burton, voted to incorporate the history component, as described by the interest group, as part of the mission in 2011. The official name was changed to the Theory, Philosophy, and History of Advising Commission in 2013 under the direction of the then-Chair Sarah Champlin-Scharff. The association leadership offered further support for these initiatives by approving the name change at the October 2013 meeting. Taking on the goal of examining history as a foundational component of academic advising added a dimension of critical reflection for researchers and practitioners in the field. As the TPHAC continues to explore the ways in which advisors have done, are doing, and will do their work, it will contribute to the advancement of advising.
Despite the momentum that the TPHAC has gained over the last 15 years, much work remains for clarifying theory, philosophy, and approaches of advising. Many institutions approach the future without the benefit of complete written histories of advising efforts on campus. Professionals and scholars still seek other paradigms outside of developmental advising. Even in facing these continuing and emerging challenges, the commission can claim meaningful accomplishments in and contributions to the field (P. Hagen & M. Lowenstein, personal communication, October 6, 2013):
Lowenstein: “It's very existence shouldn't be sneezed at as an important factor because it gets to sponsor presentations. . . . I think we should make use of our annual get-together . . . to say, ‘Where do we stand? . . . Have we made progress on something in the last year?' It should keep maintaining a resource list. . . . It should monitor not just the [NACADA] Journal but other publications for relevant things that might come from outside our group.”
Hagen: “I think one long-term task should be to guard against hegemony happening. I think the movement towards the lack of respect of the perspectives, theories, philosophies is going to have a very salutary effect on the field. I think we are stronger because we can now talk about things like hermeneutic meaning and not be laughed off the stage as we might have been 10 years ago.”
When discussing where the field of academic advising should go in relation to theory, Lowenstein (personal communication, October 6, 2013) argued:
I believe that a comprehensive theory or philosophy of advising is where we are going. At the very least, it focuses our minds that, if we tell ourselves that such is neither possible nor desirable. . . . We give ourselves permission to say that, “alright, we are fine” wherever we happen to be, because we have no goal, in terms of theory. We just keep coming up with metaphors and similarities. And that's okay, but if we don't come up with any more that's okay too—whereas if we said, “We need to try to find something that holds all these things together.”
In the October 6, 2013, conversation, Hagen disagreed and offered a counterpoint to a single-theory proposition:
Why should we have to be in such a defensive position as to need to make one comprehensive statement of advising? Raising the analogy once again, but here goes: I feel that medicine doesn't do it; there is no one statement about medicine that is in the broadest of uses. The practice of law—there is no one statement that would encapsulate everybody. . . . I think I did look at the AMA web site to try to find something. There is the Hippocratic oath, but not much else. Teaching, the National Education Association would be crazy to try to put together a comprehensive statement about what teaching is. So my fear is that we regard ourselves as a field that is in the one-down position in respect to other more well-known and more-respected fields that we feel that we have to defend ourselves and come up with a statement like that.
Regardless of their respective positions on the single or multiple theory prospects, both Hagen and Lowenstein agree that, as a field, academic advising needs to be defined:
We need to make ourselves understood. And, we are, in terms of comparing ourselves to other professions, we may be less like doctors and lawyers and more like nurses, in the following sense, that nurses, historically had their field defined for them by doctors and they have fought against that, and I think with some success, because as long as doctors define their field then nurses are handmaids and nurses don't see themselves that way, although probably some do, just as some advisors do. I supervised the nursing program at Stockton and I knew some awfully smart, tough-minded, assertive to the point of aggressiveness—people whom I admire very much for that, people who felt that it was their mission to educate future nurses to be, to take control of defining the future of their profession—and I see us getting defined by other people. (M. Lowenstein, personal communication, October 6, 2013)
To assist in creating this definition and outlining of theory, both Hagen and Lowenstein advocate for a strong TPHAC emphasis placed on theory in graduate programs that examine the field of academic advising. They also call for more theory, philosophy, and history publications and presentations in both NACADA venues and outside of NACADA to expose others to the ways those in the field define advising.
As noted in the 2013 conversation with Hagen and Lowenstein, academic advising needs to be examined from a wide array of scholarly perspectives. The understanding of the theory and philosophy in academic advising continues to advance as individuals begin to question the ways in which they practice and find new lenses through which to view their work. The trajectory of the TPHAC includes an acknowledgment that theory and philosophy are no longer assumed, but that these ideas remain central to the professionalization of the field.
Lowenstein and Hagen offered these final comments (personal communication, October 6, 2013):
Lowenstein: “There's been huge progress, somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 18 years, and I'm delighted. You know it's a glass half full–half empty thing. We know the ways in which we need to go. I think we are doing the right thing.”
Hagen: “I think I'm speaking for both of us when we say that we are profoundly grateful to have had the kinds of opportunities that we have had. Both of us have had a certain amount of influence on an entire field and when do people ever get a chance to do that? It's amazing. I believe I am speaking for the team here, we are really grateful, grateful that there is interest enough to even be here.”
Discussions on the foundations of theory, philosophy, and history of academic advising continue at annual conferences, in publications, and by the water cooler. Critical, theoretical examination of advising practice keeps advising vibrant as a field. This reflection on the rise of the NACADA TPHAC reveals a small snippet of the diverse histories found within the field, and it should give others pause when they begin discussions and reflect on their theories, philosophies, and histories. Practitioners and scholars in the field will benefit as they, too, explore, articulate, and share their findings with the broader academic advising community.
I thank the following individuals for assisting in locating primary documents and sharing their stories about the TPAHC: Peter Hagen, Marc Lowenstein, Peg Steele, Eric White, and Sarah Champlin-Scharff. I also thank the NACADA Executive Office staff for their assistance in seeking primary documents and data related to the commission as well as Drew Puroway for his insight.
Shannon Lynn Burton, PhD, is the Associate University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University as well as the Research Integrity Coordinator. In these roles she has sought out ways to build a culture of academic integrity by restructuring and institutionalizing the Academic Integrity Consortium, which she directs, as well as by engaging faculty members, staff, and students in other venues to address this issue at a grassroots level. Shannon seeks to give voice to issues on campus including those affecting student rights and responsibilities as well as student success. Her research interests include ombuds practice, academic advising, academic integrity, ethics and legal issues, organizational culture, and the history of higher education. Shannon can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @msuburton.