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From Transactional to Transformational: Unpacking and Strengthening Advising Capacity

December 2023

Learn about Dr. Matt Giani's report, From Transactional to Transformational: Unpacking and Strengthening Advising Capacity. The report unravels the complexities of advising, offering transformative insights and strategic recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of advising across Texas.

In the evolving landscape of education, school counselors and college advisors play a pivotal role in shaping students' journeys from high school to higher education and careers. Despite their significance, gaps in our understanding of advising capacity persist. Dr. Matt Giani's comprehensive report, From Transactional to Transformational: Unpacking and Strengthening the Multiple Dimensions of Advising Capacity, addresses these gaps, shedding light on the nuances of advising in Texas and offering key recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of advising across the state.
Key Gaps Addressed
The report identifies three critical gaps that have impeded the advancement of effective advising:

  1. Limited Data Insights: Understanding the supply and characteristics of advisors is hindered by sparse data, exacerbated by the fact that advisors are often employed by external organizations operating within schools. This lack of visibility constrains our ability to formulate informed strategies for improvement.
  2. Narrow Conceptualizations of Advising Capacity: Our conceptualizations of advising capacity have been overly narrow, limiting our understanding of why some reforms succeed while others falter. A holistic perspective on advising is essential to discern the multifaceted nature of successful advising programs.
  3. Lack of Measurement Tools: Without effective tools to measure the multiple dimensions of advising capacity, our ability to target reforms and investments toward the most critical dimensions is severely compromised. A comprehensive understanding of these dimensions is crucial for shaping effective policies.
To bridge these gaps, the study employed a multi-pronged approach:
  1. Survey: Nearly 2,000 educators, including college advisors, school counselors, and central office staff, participated in a survey, providing insights from diverse perspectives.
  2. Interviews: In-depth interviews with over a dozen current and former college advisors enriched the understanding of their roles, challenges, and the multifaceted nature of advising capacity.
  3. Exploration of Dimensions: Beyond common transactional advising, the study delved into transformational advising, exploring navigational, sociocultural, and motivational capacities.
Key Findings: Illuminating the Advising Landscape
The study's findings shed light on the current state of advising in Texas:
  1. Widespread Presence of Advisors: Contrary to expectations, advisors and College Advising Programs (CAPs) are prevalent, with approximately 90% of school districts having relationships with at least one CAP. This challenges the assumption of scarcity, emphasizing the need for a more nuanced understanding.
  2. Mixed Views on CAP Partnerships: While partnerships between districts and CAPs are common, district respondents express mixed satisfaction, raising questions about the effectiveness of these collaborations in achieving shared goals.
  3. Time Allocation Disparities: The study reveals significant differences in the time allocated by counselors and advisors, emphasizing the need to reevaluate and streamline responsibilities for optimal impact.
  4. Advising Ratio Disparities: Unlike counselors, advisors face bimodal caseloads, indicating a lack of standardization in advising loads and highlighting the diverse advising models across Texas.
  5. Navigational Challenges: Advisors, despite expressing optimism, face challenges in navigating their roles effectively, raising concerns about students' ability to navigate the advising system in their schools.
  6. Sociocultural Understanding: Both counselors and advisors acknowledge the imperative to deepen their understanding of students' diverse backgrounds, highlighting a crucial aspect of advising often overlooked.
  7. Motivational Capacity: Motivating students emerges as a critical but challenging dimension, with advisors feeling unprepared and identifying external factors as significant barriers.
  8. Advisors' Experience and Compensation: A significant proportion of advisors are inexperienced and poorly compensated, signaling potential issues with retention and the overall attractiveness of the profession.
Based on these findings, the report presents a set of recommendations to strengthen advising capacity:
  1. Data Enhancement: Improve data collection on counselors and advisors to broaden understanding and inform targeted reforms.
  2. CAP Documentation: Systematically document CAP partnerships to enhance transparency and ensure student safety.
  3. Alignment Strategies: Design approaches for better alignment between CAPs, schools, and districts to maximize effectiveness.
  4. Role Clarity: Clarify and support advisor roles and expectations, ensuring manageable caseloads for effective advising.
  5. Salary Adjustment: Raise advisor salaries to attract and retain professionals crucial for student success.
  6. Professionalization: Establish pathways for career advancement within the advising profession to enhance professionalism.
  7. Invest in Research: Support future research to explore the relationship between advising capacity dimensions and student outcomes.
Dr. Matt Giani's report not only unveils the intricacies of advising capacity but also lays the groundwork for transformative reforms. Implementing these recommendations promises a more robust and equitable advising system, ensuring students receive the support they need to navigate the complex landscape of higher education and career planning.
If you would like to read the full report, From Transactional to Transformational: Unpacking and Strengthening the Multiple Dimensions of Advising Capacity, you can access it here.