Humanism, as an educational philosophy, is explored as a foundational learning and development theory to inform a new approach to academic advising. Linking humanism to academic advising, humanistic advising emphasizes the importance of advisee growth and change to become self-actualized. Thus, humanistic advising calls for advisors to see students beyond their academic profile, recognize that students' affective matters are worth intentional focus, and aid students in their holistic development as human beings. Five foundational beliefs of humanistic advising are shared along with the phases for humanistic advising and four strategies for practice. Finally, strengths and limitations of humanistic advising are presented.
Humanism is a philosophy of learning and development that proposes “people, to a much greater extent than has been realized, are free and creative beings, capable of growth and self-actualization” (Crain, 2014, p. 388). Maslow (1943) expressed self-actualization as the ability for humans to meet their potential through the fulfillment of basic needs. Humanism asks educators to “emphasize the importance of the inner world of the learner and places the individual's thought, emotions and feelings at the forefront of all human development” (Khatib et al., 2013, p. 45). Humanist educators concentrate on “developing rationality, autonomy, empowerment, creativity, affections and a concern for humanity” within their students (Veugelers, 2011, p. 1).
At the core, humanistic learning theory states that when a student has their needs met the student will make good decisions to foster their growth (Maslow, 1943). Kolb's (1984) experiential learning theory combined a four-stage cycle of learning (concrete learning, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation) with four unique learning styles (diverging, assimilating converging, and accommodating) as a way to foster a student-centric learning experience. Knowles et al.'s (2005) work on adult learners identified six assumptions regarding adult learning: 1) need to know; 2) learner's self-concept; 3) the role of the learner's experiences; 4) readiness to learn; 5) orientation to learning; and 6) motivation. Mezirow and Taylor (2009) later shared the importance of transformative learning by asking educators to consider the individual's experience, critical reflections, dialogue, holistic orientation, awareness of context and authentic relationships as influential factors in adult learning and development. When speaking of transformative learning, Mezirow and Taylor (2009) go on to state:
Those who venture into this arena will have to trust their teaching instincts, since there are few clear signposts or guidelines, and develop an application for and awareness of their own assumptions and beliefs about the purpose of fostering transformative learning and the impact on practice. Through this awareness and by engaging in a reflective process, these core elements give meaning to transformative learning. (pp. 14–15)
For such growth and learning to occur, humanistic scholars have expanded on the work of Rogers (1980) and frame relationships as inherently humanistic by claiming relationships are enhanced through unconditional acceptance, congruence between outward behavior and inner feelings, and by learning to empathize with one another (Delia, 2012). Therefore, humanistic educators embrace two basic premises: 1) a direct link exists between an individual's quality of life and quality of communication; and 2) the human world gravitates towards relations rather than divisions (Stewart, 2009).
Quality of Life and Communication
First, a direct link exists between an individual's quality of life and quality of communication (Stewart, 2009). Humanistic theories, along with humanistic informed approaches to academic advising, reflect this premise. In considering quality of life, Abraham Maslow (1943) developed a positive theory of human motivation that emphasized motivation “is not synonymous with behavior theory” (p. 371). Maslow suggested that human motivation is influenced by human needs, which are often in sequence and must be fulfilled before moving on to the next need. Within his theory, Maslow articulated basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs for humans. Basic needs focus on the physiological and safety needs of humans. Upon fulfilling these basic needs, humans advance to fulfilling their psychological needs. Psychological needs include gaining love, belonging and acquiring self-esteem. Assuming that basic and psychological needs are fulfilled, humans may achieve the final need of self-actualization. Maslow writes:
The clear emergence of these needs rests upon prior satisfaction of the physiological, safety, love and esteem needs. We shall call people who are satisfied in these needs, basically satisfied people, and it is from these that we may expect the fullest (and healthiest) creativeness. (p. 383)
Recognizing the importance communication plays in the counseling process, Carl Rogers (1946) introduced a humanistic model of therapy called client-centered therapy. Rogers believed in the study of self as a key element in the treatment of clients. Additionally, with the focus on self, Rogers understood clients to be good conscious human beings with the ability to make their own choices and desire to make themselves and their world a better place. Through client-centered therapy, Rogers identified three essential elements: 1) Congruence, 2) Unconditional Positive Regard, and 3) Empathetic Understanding. Congruence asks for the therapist to be authentic in actions and self-aware towards clients. Unconditional positive regard calls for compassion and acceptance of the client. Rogers (1980) explained his final element of client-centered therapy, empathetic listening, as “entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it” (p. 142). Rogers (1980) further elaborated:
It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person … To be with another in this way means that for the time being, you lay aside your own views and values in order to enter another's world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside yourself. (pp. 142–143)
Rogers (1957) later shared six necessary conditions for change and growth: 1) therapist-client psychological contact; 2) client incongruence; 3) therapist congruence; 4) therapist unconditional positive regard; 5) therapist empathic understanding; and 6) client perception.
Hettler (1980) provided a humanistic model of wellness that acknowledged the role institutions have in creating conditions that communicate and foster student well-being. By referencing Hettler, Long (2012) defined wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being” (p. 50), Hettler (1980) shared six dimensions of wellness with the life of a student: 1) physical; 2) intellectual; 3) emotional; 4) spiritual; 5) social; and 6) occupational. Full wellness is achieved when a student is able to fulfill all six dimensions through commitment and time. As a result, students “fully experience learning and development that is positive, healthy and complex” (Long, 2012, p. 50).
Within academic advising, Schreiner (2013) introduced strength-based advising as a model of practices that focuses on intrinsic motivation, well-being, and hope. The strength-based approach calls for academic advisors to work with students on identifying, assessing, developing and applying their natural strengths. Schreiner's strength-based advising approach emphasizes five key steps: 1) identify student's talents; 2) affirm and increase awareness of talent; 3) envision the future; 4) plan steps to reach goal; and 5) apply strengths to challenges. For the advisors who adopt this approach, strength-based advising expects advisors to apply methods for identifying/affirming the strengths of a student, craft strategies that allow a student to develop a plan, and help a student adapt their strengths in changing circumstances. As Schreiner (2013) writes, “a strengths-based approach encourages them [students] to capitalize on their unique gifts to become the best version of themselves and gain the most they can from their college experiences” (p. 117).
Relations Rather Than Divisions
Second, the human world gravitates towards relations rather than divisions (Stewart, 2009). This is most present in academic advising as academic advisors have engaged in a number of interpersonal skills to foster relationships and advising approaches that call for interpersonal skills. Metz and Allan (1981) expressed the importance of being a good advisor by listening constructively to advisees, learning about experiences shared by the advisee, and coming to understand the student's point of view on matters. A caring attitude is also the hallmark of a good academic advisor (Aiken et al., 1976; Crockett, 1987; Keller, 1988; Ford & Ford, 1989). Kuh (1997) emphasized the importance of academic advisors offering student-centered services with a particular focus on setting expectations and helping students raise their own aspirations. NACADA (2017), as one part of a newly established global framework, called for academic advisors to develop and practice relational competence. Recognizing the importance of the advisor-advisee relationship, relational competency asks academic advisors to demonstrate inclusive communication, build rapport, and facilitate meaning-making as part of the academic advising experience.
The importance of relations rather than divisions can also be found throughout the approaches to academic advising literature. Rawlins and Rawlins (2005) connected their interpersonal communication work on friendship with academic advising. Together, they argued, “from their inception, most advising relationships are dyadic relationships personally focused on the well-being of individual students” (p. 11). Furthermore, Rawlins and Rawlins (2005) believe the “affection and caring” advising friendship is focused on “directing participants' energies toward the ongoing accomplishment of a common good” (p. 11). The friendship between the academic advisor and advisee can expand to include additional members such as family, friends/peers, additional advisors and more. Grounded in research in dyadic friendship, Rawlins and Rawlins (2005) provided a model with “six dialectical principles that potentially emerge in advising relationship when they are developed, practiced, and lived in the spirit of friendship” (p. 10). The six dialectical principles include: 1) The Dialectic of the Ideal and the Real; 2) The Dialectic of the Private and the Public; 3) The Dialectic of the Freedom to be Independent and the Freedom to be Dependent; 4) The Dialectic of Affection and Instrumentality; 5) The Dialectic of Judgment and Acceptance; and 6) The Dialectic of Expressiveness and Protectiveness. In recognizing that the relationship between an academic advisor and advisee is not static, Rawlins and Rawlins advising-as-friendship model presents a humanizing perspective that speaks to the importance of mutual friendship.
Finally, inspired by the humanistic work of Maslow (1943) and Stickel and Callaway (2007), Bloom et al. (2008) developed appreciative advising as a practical framework for academic advisors. Collectively, the appreciative advising model is based on a relationship rooted in trust and emphasizes that the student learn from their past experiences to inform current and future plans. With an appreciative mindset, “advisors intentionally use positive, active and attentive listening and questions strategies” (p. 11) to apply the following six phases of appreciative advising: 1) Disarm; 2) Discover; 3) Dream; 4) Design; 5) Deliver; and 6) Don't Settle. Thus, appreciative advising assumes advisees come with their own potential for academic success and are capable of identifying and building up their own strengths through the exploration of their life experiences. In return, the appreciative advisor strives to optimize the advisee's knowledge of self and enhance the academic journey by embracing a relationship with the advisee that values trust, respect, and perspectives.
Embracing the notion that all people are noble and good, humanistic growth and learning theory draws from Maslow (1943) and Rogers (1946) as a means to develop self-directed and autonomous learners. Humanistic educators root such changes in two basic premises: 1) a direct link exists between an individual's quality of life and quality of communication and 2) the human world gravitates towards relations rather than divisions (Stewart, 2009). Thus, humanism believes and embraces the learner's free will, as well as incentivizes intrinsic goodness and emotions as prominent factors in the growth and development process.
The Need for Humanistic Advising
As COVID-19 and social justice movements continue to impact campuses, institutions are working through unprecedented circumstance to support students, maintain enrollments, and meet financial obligations (Smalley, 2020). While the pandemic elevated already existing systemic issues in higher education, it also forced institutions to shift from an enrollment-centric model towards a student-centric model of support that is based on serving student need, well-being, and individuality. As campuses adapt to the “new normal,” academic advisors are often on the front lines and offer support to students who have been impacted the most by the pandemic (Braverman, 2020). Within these conditions, the need for humanistic advising is concerned with addressing three issues: lack of humanism in academic advising approaches; addressing the complex needs of students; and calls for more humanized advising experience to support and serve advisees.
First, humanism, as an approach to academic advising, is rarely explored but offers a new approach to advisee growth and development (See Appendix A). In the last 20 years, academic advising approaches and models have expanded beyond the dichotomy of developmental and prescriptive designs. Academic advising expanded into theories of learning and development such a behaviorism (Proactive/Intrusive Advising; Advising as Coaching), cognitivism (Advising as Teaching; Socratic Advising; Self-Authorship Advising), and constructivism (Learner-centered Advising; Appreciative Advising; Strength-Based Advising; Hermeneutic Advising). Collectively, the approaches to academic advising reflect that advisee learning and development are at the center of academic advising (Lowenstein, 2013). However, the application of these theories focuses on cognitive and social development but limits the potential academic advising may have on addressing student needs, emotions, and growth as part of a truly holistic educational experience.
Second, as student needs become more complex, academic advisors are challenged to serve the needs of students both in and outside of the educational environment. Echoing Maslow's work (1943), institutions continue to see an increase in food insecurity programs (Nikolaus et al., 2020), upswing of emergency fund programs (Kruger et al., 2016), and a rise for housing insecurities programs (Wood et al., 2017). These efforts are intentionally designed to serve the basic needs of a student in order to help them complete their education. Academic advisors are among the many university staff at the forefront of student development, support, and education. Often, academic advisors are considered cultural navigators (Strayhorn, 2015), teachers (Crookston, 1972/2009), and advocates (Nguyen, 2015). These descriptors, although not fully inclusive of the role, reflect the multifunctional purposes of the position and how academic advisors have responded to student needs; they also reflect how academic advisors are called to help address the needs of students.
Third, as campuses continue to see an increase in diverse student populations, academic advising literature has seen an increased call for more humanized advising to support and serve advisees. Academic advisors are encouraged to be seen as more human by being caring and committed to advisee success and seeing the advisee's identity as an asset to their success (Museus & Ravello, 2010). Collectively, the increased call for more humanized advising experience reflects the U.S. trends that a student's ability to complete their education is often influenced by the basic needs of the student and by a caring academic advisor who can help identify non-academic students needs. This shift in practices allows academic advisors to truly educate the whole student rather than educate selective aspects of a student's identity.
In sum, as institutions continue to find ways to adjust to a post-pandemic world while addressing inequities, the need for systemic change in higher education now calls for students to be seen and treated as more human on their campus. Thus, academic advising too must adjust to a post-pandemic world. From these perspectives, humanism presents a view that may address the gaps seen within current approaches to academic advising and offers a process for academic advisors to develop advisees' full potential through the application of humanistic skills and growth frameworks.
Humanism in Academic Advising
Within the academic advising literature, humanism influences two approaches: motivational interviewing (Hughey & Pettay, 2013) and student-centered advising (Melander, 2002). First, Hughey and Pettay (2013) introduced motivation interviewing (MI) as “a collaborative, person-centered partnership of guidance to elicit and strengthen motivation for change” (p. 67). The practice of motivational interviewing draws from Rogers' (1946) work on client-centered therapy and calls for academic advisors to advise from a place of warmth, authenticity, and empathy. Based on the four general principles of “expressing empathy, developing discrepancy, rolling with resistance, and supporting self-efficacy” (p. 69), Hughey and Pettay (2013) believe motivational interviewing is an approach to academic advising for developing student motivation as a means to facilitate change, inform choices, and affect growth. Motivational interviewing strategies are humanistic in nature and emphasize the student's free choice, values, and self-evaluation decisions with the support of the academic advisor.
Second, Melander (2002) proposed that the approach of student-centered advising be “focused on coaching the student toward the development of attitudes, skills, and behaviors as a learner, decision maker, and community participant, with success measured in terms of learner outcomes” (para. 6). The notion of student-centered advising challenged the traditional relationship between the academic advisor and advisee by placing the learning authority with the advisee. Thus, the primary question the advisee must answer is, “what activities and experiences should I program to develop my understandings and capacities as a learner?” As the primary focus of the relationship, the academic advisor is challenged with helping the student develop their own student-centered curriculum. The approach speaks to the importance of developing a relationship with the student through technology but also suggests that substantial dialogues be done in person. While the model briefly describes student-centered advising and the role of the student-centered advisor, little guidance is presented on the role of the advisee and what strategies student-centered advisors use with advisees within the model. Furthermore, the approach was limited to addressing cognitive development and did not fully account for the affective elements of student development.
Embracing the premise that a direct link exists between an individual's quality of life (Maslow, 1943) and quality of communication, and that the human world gravitates towards relations rather than divisions (Stewart, 2009), humanistic advising emphasizes the importance of advisee growth and change to become self-actualized. Thus, humanistic advising acknowledges that advisees are incentivized by their own levels of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-evaluation. Advisees find intrinsic rewards such as self-purpose, service, appreciation and community success. The core aspect of the humanistic advising experience is the relationship between the advisor and advisee. The relationship is the setting in which growth and change will occur. Therefore, the relationship is equal in nature and recognizes that both the advisor and advisee bring their identity, beliefs, values, experiences and knowledge to the dialogue. The relationship is rooted in trust, authenticity, empathy, and positive regard for each other. Out of respect for the advisee, humanistic advising sessions are led and controlled by the advisee. The humanistic advisor is charged with being an active listener, understanding the experiences of the advisee and facilitating their decision-making process. With the goal of self-actualization, the advisee self-evaluates to monitor their own growth and change based on past and recent experiences. With that in mind, humanistic advising does not overpower the cognitive realms of academic advising; instead, it calls for academic advisors to see the student beyond their academic profile, recognize that student's affective matters are worth intentional focus, and aid students in their holistic development as human beings.
The Beliefs of Humanistic Advising
Humanistic advising centers on the advisee's ability to grow and change over time. Therefore, to help facilitate an advisee's growth and change, humanistic advisors are encouraged to embrace five primary beliefs rooted within humanistic learning and growth theories (Rogers, 1946; Kolb, 1984; Knowles et al., 2005; Mezirow & Taylor, 2009): The humanistic advisor 1) acknowledges advisees are more than their education; 2) recognizes advisees are unique with identities, emotions, and cultural backgrounds all their own; 3) appreciates that advisees are aware of self and the cultural context in which they operate; 4) accepts that advisees are capable of making their own choices and owning their responsibilities; and 5) understands that advisees seek meaningful learning opportunities for personal and community advancement. These five beliefs serve as a respectable and inclusive paradigm for humanistic advisors to lead their practice with empathy, trust, and care.
First, the humanistic advisor acknowledges advisees are more than their education. The educational journey is just one of many experiences of the advisee. Therefore, as each past experience brings value to the dialogue, the advisee comes to the dialogue with their own unique experiences that have shaped their identity, formulated their values, and framed what they know about themselves and the world around them. The humanistic advisor comes to understand that to serve the advisee holistically means having discussions beyond their educational experience and expanding to include additional life experiences. As such, the humanistic advisor takes active steps to embrace the collective experiences that make up the whole advisee.
Second, the humanistic advisor recognizes that advisees hold unique identities, emotions, and cultural backgrounds all their own. The advisee enters the relationship with their own identity, which may include gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, and additional self-identifying affiliations. Furthermore, the advisee also arrives with their own emotions that can be empathized with and validated by the humanistic advisor. With emotions and identity in mind, humanistic advisors must learn to respect the advisee's cultural background. To do so, the humanistic advisor shifts their frame of practice from cultural appreciation to cultural humility, which is the “ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person]” (Hook et al., 2013, p. 354).
Third, the humanistic advisor appreciates advisees are aware of self and the cultural context in which they operate. In other words, the expert on self is the advisee. In the reflective dialogue, the humanistic advisor is the one learning about the advisee's cultural context and how it has influenced the development of the advisee's self by helping the advisee reflect on past experiences to inform future decisions. Additionally, the humanistic advisor also sees themself as the expert on their self and thus brings a unique perspective and added value to the dialogue. Embracing and respecting one another, the humanistic advisor and advisee strive to develop a relationship rooted in common experiences, interrelated through goals and/or connected by common values.
Fourth, the humanistic advisor accepts that advisees are capable of making their own choices and owning their responsibilities. The humanistic advisor should create a positive learning environment that is free of judgment and which supports the emotional and intellectual aspects of the self-learning process. The self-learning process allows the advisee to establish learning goals, consider areas of growth, and determine steps to achieving self-identified goals. The humanistic advisor then helps the advisee think through options, develop realistic and actionable growth plans, and provides, as appropriate, a level of accountability to the advisee. The humanistic advisor trusts advisees to self-evaluate their progress and growth. As the advisee leads the academic advising session, the humanistic advisor understands that learning within the session is advisee-centric.
Fifth, the humanistic advisor understands that advisees seek meaningful learning opportunities for personal and community advancement. Thus, the humanistic advisor is charged with helping the advisee self-identify learning opportunities that will foster growth, cultivate meaningful change, and contribute to the advisee's larger goal and/or outcome. Furthermore, the humanist advisor must help the advisee consider their motivations and how those motivations will impact their growth and change during a learning experience. The humanistic advisor becomes the facilitator to aid the advisee in creating and applying self-identified strategies to achieve their growth goals. Thus, the humanistic advisor must be highly aware of the advisee's goals, needs, and ambitions. Through the creation of a supportive, non-judgmental learning environment, the humanistic advisor brings their personal experience to the discussion and may recommend, co-design, and discuss learning options to foster intellectual and emotional growth and change.
The five beliefs of humanistic advising provide humanistic advisors with a common-sense foundation to practice. While these beliefs may appear to be common sense, practicing them can be much more nuanced. The beliefs call for humanistic advisors to expand the dialogue beyond education with the advisee, practice cultural humility, empathize with the advisee, and learn from the advisee. Perhaps most challenging, the humanistic advisor must learn to trust the advisee to make their own choices and learn to respect the motivations that inform the advisee's choices. In sum, these beliefs lay the foundation for humanistic advisors to cultivate the advisee's self-growth and self-learning.
Phases for Humanistic Advising
Inspired by the work of Knowles et al. (2005) and Mezirow and Taylor (2009), the phases for humanistic advising were created to embrace the five beliefs of humanistic advising. This framework acknowledges that growth and development is continuous and strives to support advisees in realizing their full potential. The cyclical nature of growth and development requires humanistic advisors to be authentically invested in the advisee's growth process. By practicing the phases of humanistic advising, humanistic advisors have an opportunity to deliver an inclusive and holistic advising experience for advisees. The ongoing phases of humanistic advising include: 1) Foster; 2) Inspire; 3) Fulfill; 4) Reflect; and 5) Progress (See Appendix B).
As the relationship is the medium through which change occurs for both the humanistic advisor and advisee, the Foster phase includes cultivating a relationship grounded in trust, authenticity, and support. The focus of the Foster phase is to discuss the nature of the relationship and articulate expectations of each other. Additionally, rather than knowing about the advisee, the Foster phase allows for humanistic advisors to get to know the advisee through investing time and understanding the advisee's personal history, story, and goals. As such, the Foster phase enables humanistic advisors to identify the advisee's needs, capabilities, areas of growth, personal motivations, and potential outcomes for growth. Within this portion of the process, humanistic advisors may engage advisees in potential activities such as self-assessments, wellness checks, and goal-sorting exercises. The Foster phase is an ongoing and continuous part of the humanistic advising experience and serves as the foundation from which all other components are rooted.
Building upon an advisee's needs, motivations, and growth goals, the Inspire phase presents humanistic advisors with an opportunity to motivate advisees to envision their full potential and take ownership of their growth experiences. The Inspire phase provides opportunities for humanistic advisors to empower advisees, encourage decisions, and promote freedom of choice. Furthermore, advisees have an opportunity to share their thoughts, express their feelings, and share lessons learned from their past. To that end, humanistic advisors may engage advisees in potential activities such as vision or dream boarding, gratitude bingo, and growth exploration exercises. The Inspire phase provides advisees and the humanistic advisor both with an opportunity to deepen their relationship while providing emotional and growth support to the advisee.
With a better understanding of an advisee's growth goals, the Fulfill phase puts pen to paper and provides advisees with an opportunity to develop their personal growth and development plan. Additionally, advisees have a chance to identify growth experiences and opportunities. The growth and development plan may require humanistic advisors to provide support through care coordination – facilitating connection to or advocating on behalf of the advisee to receive institutional level support. The Fulfill phase also encourages advisees to consider and connect key influences and mentors, establish growth milestones, and clarify the role of the humanistic advisor in the growth and development plan. Finally, the Fulfill phase allows the advisee to engage in their growth plan with the full support of the humanistic advisor.
As advisees work towards fulfilling their growth and development plan, humanistic advisors can then engage advisees in a reflective process. The Reflect phase enables advisees to demonstrate authenticity and share lessons learned from their experiences. Additionally, humanistic advisors may provide feedback, offer support, and hold the advisee accountable for their decisions. Based on advisee feedback, advisees may consider refining their growth and development plan to better meet their needs and goals. To aid the reflection process, humanistic advisors may encourage advisees to participate in personal reflection journaling, self-assessment exercises on progress, and accountability dialogues. In the end, the Reflect phase allows advisees an opportunity to share their progress towards growth and make adjustments to their plan as needed.
As growth is an ongoing process for advisees, the Progress phase provides advisees and humanistic advisors a chance to affirm and celebrate achievements. Drawing from lessons learned, advisees may identify new or complementary areas of growth, extend current growth milestones, and consider fulfilling unmet dreams. The Progress phase circles back to ownership and freedom of choice for the advisee's personal growth and development. Finally, the Progress phase provides advisees the chance to determine how their lessons learned and achievements will inform the next steps in their growth and development.
In summation, the phases of humanistic advising provide a process-based approach to cultivate the growth and development of an advisee. Thus, humanistic advising is more about the journey to support students in becoming self-actualized. As humanistic advisors foster, inspire, fulfill, reflect, and progress, the process of the relationship will help advisees increase self-esteem, become more open to experiences, and address feelings of distress. To that end, advisees will gain a stronger understanding of themselves. As advisees work towards becoming self-actualized, the potential outcome of humanistic advising includes a greater alignment between the advisee's goals and their actual selves. Additionally, advisees may come to strengthen their understanding or heighten their awareness of self. Additionally, as the relationship between the advisee and advisor is rooted in trust, advisees may experience an increased sense of belonging and community. Finally, as the focus is on personal growth and development, advisees are likely to feel increasingly confident in their academic journey as they enhance their self-expression and gain greater trust in their ability to make decisions.
Strategies for Humanistic Advising
Recognizing that self-actualization is a process and achieved over time, humanistic advisors should employ human communication strategies to empowers the advisee to take charge of their advising session and, by extension, their learning and life goals. In combination with the phases for humanistic advising, the four strategies for humanistic advising create an opportunity for the humanistic advisor to acquire a more truthful and empathetic understanding of the advisee's experience. Before implementing these four strategies, humanistic advisors must first accept their presence within the session and view themselves as equal to the advisee within the context of the advising relationship. The humanistic advisor sees their own identity, beliefs, values, experiences, and knowledge as both value and value-add to the advising session. With presence of self, the humanistic advisor practices authentic human communication strategies designed to empower, facilitate, empathize and enlighten the advisee (See Appendix C).
Empowering strategies can affirm the authority the advisee has within and outside their academic life. By practicing empowering strategies, humanistic advisors acknowledge that advisees have their own responsibilities and experiences which inform their growth and change. As such, the humanistic advisor's primary tactics for empowering advisees include fostering self-understanding through recapping, clarifying, and questioning (Stewart & Cash, 2006; Adler et al., 2004). Recapping is a skill that requires humanistic advisors to summarize what has been said throughout the advising session. Recapping promotes advisee self-understanding while affirming that both advisor and advisee are on the same page. As a second tactic, clarifying is a skill that enables the humanistic advisor to check their understanding and interpretation of the advisee's experiences. Clarification offers opportunities for advisees to correct misunderstandings and misinterpretations as a means to get back on the same page with one another. Finally, questioning is a talent that allows the humanistic advisor to help the advisee process their experiences. With a particular focus on self-understanding, process-oriented questions provided by the humanistic advisor offer advisees an opportunity to explore and reflect upon their experiences.
Facilitating strategies are deliberate in aiding advisees in decisions and reflections related to their academic life. By practicing facilitating strategies, humanistic advisors recognize that advisees are capable of making their own choices based on past experiences and are able to learn how to grow and change. As such, the humanistic advisor's primary tactics for facilitating advisee's decision-making include cultivating self-understanding through immediacy, confrontation, and centering (Martin & Nakayama, 2004). Immediacy encourages the humanistic advisor to be present in the moment with the advisee. As a way of facilitating the decision-making process, immediacy provides instances for the humanistic advisor to call out emotional moments within the advising session that foster an advisee's self-awareness and strengthen the interpersonal advisor-advisee relationship. Confrontation urges the humanistic advisor to respectfully challenge the expressed ideas of an advisee to facilitate the decision-making process. Confrontation provides insight, promotes self-reflection, and encourages open communication. Finally, centering calls upon the humanistic advisor to help advisees self-identify their goals for personal growth and change. By focusing on growth and change, humanistic advisors apply centering to focus the advising session and aid the advisee in making their own decisions.
Empathizing strategies assist advisees in decisions and reflections related to their academic and non-academic lives. By practicing empathizing strategies, humanistic advisors meaningfully share in the experiences of the advisee and identify with the advisee's internal process. As such, the humanistic advisor's primary tactics for empathizing with advisees include humanizing self-understanding through active listening, reflective feeling, and self-disclosure (Wood, 2002). Active listening positions the humanistic advisor to get a clear understanding of the discussion, affirm the advisee's emotions, acknowledge presence in the discussion and thoughtfully respond to the advisee. When empathizing with an advisee, active listening expects humanistic advisors to take note of the advisee's verbal and non-verbal messages. Reflective feelings ask humanistic advisors to identify the advisee's verbal and non-verbal emotions, reflect that emotion to the advisee, and validate that emotion. By practicing reflective feelings, the humanistic advisor helps the advisee feel understood, validates personal emotions, and offers clarity of thought. Finally, self-disclosure provides an opportunity for humanistic advisors to share their own personal experiences with the advisee. When done thoughtfully, self-disclosure by the humanistic advisor strengthens the trust within the advisor-advisee relationship, heightens advisee awareness of various perspectives, and increases authenticity and rapport.
Enlightening strategies can create educational experiences for advisees to develop their personal interests. By implementing enlightening strategies, humanistic advisors intentionally craft, match, or coordinate learning experiences grounded in self-discovery and personal development. As such, the humanistic advisor's main methods for enlightening advisees include case studies (McKeachie, 2002), role-play (Silberman & Auerbach, 1998), and reflective dialogue (Stewart, 2009). Case studies provide narrative-based experiences within a particular context which allow advisees to learn through purposeful analysis, constructive critique, and expressed opinions. Role-play encourages advisees to practice and experience realistic and relevant situations while playing an active role in identifying feelings and practice skills. Reflective dialogue provides advisees with the opportunity to share ideas, reflect on solutions, and consider personal motivations.
The four human communication strategies explained above are intended to empower, facilitate, empathize and enlighten the advisee. However, humanistic advisors must maintain a mindful balance in their practices. For example, humanistic advisors should exercise attentiveness and care to maintain an equal relationship with the advisee. When speaking with advisees, humanistic advisors must seek out understanding rather than justification. Furthermore, humanistic advisors must strive to give advisees affirmations rooted in authenticity rather than false hope. Humanistic advisors must also guide the advisee in their own process of solution development rather than prescribe a solution. Finally, humanistic advisors must affirm emotions instead of approving or disapproving of circumstances and/or agreeing or disagreeing with experiences.
Training Humanistic Advisors
Humanistic advising marks a shift in thinking and practice. Given the scalability of humanistic advising, one of the first steps towards becoming a humanistic advisor is to engage in training to ensure that future humanistic advisors are well prepared to cultivate the growth of their advisees. Institutions may secure services to engage academic advisors and faculty advisors in webinars, trainings, certifications, and mentorship programming. Guided by humanistic principles, training topics may include: 1) the theoretical foundations of humanistic advising; 2) the beliefs of humanistic advising; 3) humanistic advisor presence and authenticity; and 4) understanding and applying the strategies of humanistic advising. For humanistic advising leaders and those wishing to advance their practice, additional trainings may include: 1) assessing the impact of humanistic advising; 2) conducting research on humanistic advising; 3) mentoring humanistic advisors; and 4) refining skills of humanistic advising. In sum, training future humanistic advisors will involve engaging discussions and a supportive community on innovative humanistic topics impacting the work of humanistic advisors across the landscape of higher education.
Strengths of Humanistic Advising
Humanistic advising comes with five primary strengths. First, humanistic advising strives to see the best in the advisee. The asset-based mindset provides an opportunity for humanistic advisors to see the natural strengths, talents, skills, and abilities of an advisee. Second, humanistic advising sees advisees as influential and capable humans. Third, humanistic advisors understand that emotions matter. Because emotions impact how advisees think, process, speak and more, humanistic advisors respect the role emotions play in advisees' education and development. Fourth, humanistic advising involves the whole advisee and makes the intentional effort to develop cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of the advisee's learning experience. The humanistic advisor accepts the advisee's whole identity and strives to support the advisee in achieving their growth goals. As they continue to accentuate a holistic approach to their educational practices, institutions must educate beyond cognitive and intellectual realms and be willing to expand and include the emotional aspects of a student's development (Haley, 2016). Finally, as institutions address systemic issues, humanistic advising ventures into moral concerns that call for academic advisors to infuse social justice (Selzer & Rouse, 2013), cultural humility (Hook et al., 2013) and affective development (Haley, 2016). Specifically, academic advisors are encouraged to practice affirmations, advocacy, and support for advisees (Lee, 2018) as ways to address student needs while creating antiracist campus climates that promote care, well-being, and holistic education.
Considerations of Humanistic Advising
Naturally, humanistic advising does have considerations. First, humanistic advising is fluid and thus does not follow a set curriculum. Rather, as the advisee sets the curriculum, humanistic advisors facilitate a custom curriculum designed to meet an advisee's needs. Second, because the curriculum is fluid, humanistic advisors come to accept that an advisee's development and growth will vary based on their internal motivations. The advisee is charged with establishing the milestones of growth and each advisee may vary in their milestones. Third, humanistic advisors must balance choice-based learning with institutional structures and traditions. Institutions come with organizational identities and are often composed of traditions, symbols, missions, goals, and structures all their own. As such, the humanistic advisor must aid advisees in their quest to grow within a preexisting, outcome-based environment. Finally, because growth and development are continuous, humanistic advisors must accept that self-actualization is an ongoing process for the advisee. As such, humanistic advising is more about the process of becoming rather than being.
As institutions of higher education continue to make strides towards serving students, humanistic advising as a practice not only presents the opportunity to cultivate the advisee's potential but also that of the institution. The phases for humanistic advising provides a framework through which academic advisors can rise to meet student needs and potential by employing communication strategies designed to empower, facilitate, empathize, and enlighten. Like many academic advising approaches, academic advisors may integrate humanistic advising or elements of humanistic advising to complement other academic advising approaches. As such, the integration of humanistic advising challenges academic advisors to elevate their practice, develop deep and meaningful relationships with advisees, and acknowledge the affective dimensions of the educational experience. As Wang (2005) expressed, “Affect is not only the basic needs of human body, but also the condition and premise of the other physical and psychological activities” (p. 1). Through this lens, humanistic advising presents an opportunity to enhance student learning and growth by trusting students to take charge of their educational experiences while supporting advisees in seeking out growth-based opportunities for themselves. As advisees enter college with various experiences that have shaped their self-concept, motivations, and identity, humanistic advisors are presented with an opportunity to foster a student's potential by aiding them in self-identifying gaps in knowledge, connecting them to learning experiences, and building a relationship that models humility, care, and trust. As Stewart (2009) eloquently stated, “If we experience mainly distant, objective, impersonal communicating, we're liable to grow up pretty one-sided, but if we experience our share of close, supportive, interpersonal communicating, we're likely to develop more of our human potential” (p. 7).
Gabriel O. Bermea earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from Benedictine University. His work centers on Hispanic-Serving Institutions, the emerging profession of academic advising and student success within the context of Minority Serving Institutions. Dr. Bermea regularly conducts trainings and professional development for professional academic advisors and develops strategies to increase student retention and completion rates for students of color. His current research is focused on understanding the undergraduate academic advising practices within and across Minority Serving Institutions. Dr. Bermea currently serves as a Workforce Associate with Excelencia in Education and a Visiting Scholar with The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Dr. Bermea can be reached at email@example.com.