Development Session for Cross-Functional Team

Functional Roles

  • Management (Dean/assistant dean/department heads) – oversee staff management and implementation of programs and initiatives, making strategic decisions. Assist students with academic planning and course enrollment.
  • Academic Faculty (professors/instructors) – those present should be invested in helping students both inside the classroom and beyond – hold the responsibility of establishing and teaching the curriculum and providing academic resources – should offer academic guidance and coaching during office hours.
  • Student Support Staff (counselors, academic coaches, etc) – directly interact with students in terms of needed to support and guidance. Collaboration through student success centers and services which oversee the aspects of advisement, orientation, and academic coaching.
  • Administrative Staff (librarians, office staff, financial services) – offer support to students regarding necessary documentation in their admissions, transfer, or academic process.
  • Support Staff (wide variety of professions ranging from groundskeeping to security to food service workers) – have a functional role of maintaining a safe, positive, and clean environment in which students feel comfortable and excel.

Outcomes and Objectives

Establish overall improvements and reform to the areas of student advisement, orientation, and academic coaching.

Determine more specific functional roles of each type of staff in these areas.

Establish collaborative efforts, programs, and communication among staff levels and departments to address these concepts, both to increase effectiveness and eliminate redundancies.

Establish guiding principles and evaluative criteria which can be used to assess performance.

Develop a plan of action moving forward for each of the areas in advisement, orientation, and academic coaching.

The primary outcomes focus on clarifying staff roles and enhancing collaboration in the primary themes of reform in this session which include student advisement, orientation, and academic coaching. It is important to establish clear criteria for goals and evaluation of success for any proposed initiatives and programs. A concrete plan of action should be established with steps to be taken within the next academic semester and year for the achievement of said goals.

Evidence for Advisement

Most students emphasize accuracy of knowledge as the primary issue with advisors.

Students appreciate accurate and up-to-date information regarding college navigation such as academic, career, and financial matters.

Resourcefulness is necessary for students to have a positive experience with advising, addressing areas and aspects students were not aware of or knowledgeable in.

Advisors also serve a key role in referring students to those who may help answer their questions and providing exposure to new academic or career opportunities.

Students tend to value emotional support and coaching in terms of guiding students towards goals in the college navigation process (Packard & Jeffers, 2013).

Themes of advisors impeding progress

Themes of advisors impeding progress

In a study by Packard & Jeffers (2013), 32% of respondents indicated lack of knowledge and 13% indicated advisors not being helpful as primary barriers as seen in the chart. Each college has a range of advising resources that can positively influence students in the complexities of college navigation. Advisement can occur at any level, ranging from department heads discussing prerequisites to faculty who may expose students to new opportunities. However, when advisors lack real or accurate information and do not direct students to appropriate resources, or even make themselves unavailable – it directly results in students feeling discouraged and uncertainty in achieving their academic goals.

Evidence for Orientation

Orientation consists of a variety of activities, most commonly including a first-year seminar or course focusing on a mix of the following: academics, basic study skills, extended orientation, and pre-professional preparation.

It is vital to specify the purposes of the orientation programs and curricular elements to meet these purposes.

Students across various orientation programs should receive the same fundamental information, and the programs should not drastically differ in terms of features.

For example, there should not be a difference where one program connects students with support services while another provides college skills training (Hatch & Bohlig, 2015).

This approach is inconsistent and results in certain students being at a disadvantage in certain areas of college navigation.

Orientation is commonly a part of or synonymous with Student Success Programs, which also include first-year experience, learning community, student success course and other similar aspects. It is necessary to streamline and provide some unity to orientation programs, in terms of information received, as well as features.

Evidence for Academic Coaching

Primary evidence of success for a college in modern day is the number of students enrolled who graduate.

Despite numerous local and national efforts on student success, there are significant attainment gaps, especially between low and high-income students (Smith et al., 2015).

Academic coaching has emerged as an evidence-supported practice for success and student support.

Academic coaching includes a variety of intervention services such as mentoring, tutoring, advising, counseling, persistence, and study skills development.

In a national survey, more than half of community college populations utilize any of these services despite colleges placing emphasis on academic coaching (Pechac & Slantcheva-Durst, 2019).

This evidence points towards the need for significant reform for academic coaching, if not in substance, then in its approach and effectiveness to the student body. As of currently, it is not serving its role in improving the academic achievement gap and requires an innovative approach to increase utilization.

Guiding Questions

How can using inter-departmental collaboration lead to improvements for the student experience in the discussed themes.

What are possible methods of information dissemination that would be easily available to students to address evident gaps in lack of information across all three themes?

How can the advisor system be revamped to ensure a more helpful and supporting guidance?

Should the orientation system become universal across the college and all disciplines to address differences in features?

What are ways that can be used to increase utilization of academic coaching resources, particularly for struggling students?

These guiding questions are aimed at discussing the key issues brought up in this presentation regarding the elements of reform to advisement, orientation, and academic coaching. It is evident that a much different approach than traditionally is expected in order to create change.

References

Hatch, D. K., & Bohlig, E. M. (2015). An empirical typology of the latent programmatic structure of community college student success programs. Research in Higher Education, 57(1), 72–98. Web.

Packard, B. W., & Jeffers, K. C. (2013). Advising and progress in the community college STEM transfer pathway. NACADA Journal, 33(2), 65-76.

Pechac, S., & Slantcheva-Durst, S. (2019). Coaching toward completion: academic coaching factors influencing community college student success. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 1-25. Web.

Smith, C. A., Baldwin, C., & Schmidt, G. (2015). Student success centers: Leading the charge for change at community colleges. Change. Web.