Although learning advisors are often qualified teachers, the skills they apply, such as those discussed by Kelly (1996), require a significant shift in approach regarding interaction with students. As teachers reorient themselves to advising, their role changes quite markedly from teaching language to advising on learning (Mozzon-McPherson, 2001). This challenging move requires professional development training to support and ease the alteration of professional roles (Hafner& Young, 2007). As part of the professional development for advisors at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) in Japan, advisors undertake a series of ‘observations’ where they record and reflect on advising sessions. The reflection is written up and discussed with a more experienced advisor. An analysis of these reflections was recently carried out at KUIS with a view to identify common themes which provide important insights and practical implications for potential advisors and those providing professional support to new advisors. This presentation outlines the context before moving on to provide the findings of the study.
Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS)Specialist language universityStudents generally come from a controlled, exam- based language learning experience, and have been successful in this environmentKUIS students expected to use (and assessed on their use of) English. Previous successful learning strategies are unlikely to be so effective.
As well as language classes & a Self Access Centre (SAC), KUIS has employed teachers to work in the SAC
Learning advisors at KUIS: Develop SAC materials & courses Guide learners through SAC courses Are available for 1-to-1 consultations
1. Help learners identify strengths and weaknesses & set goals2. Support learners as they develop, implement & modify learning plans3. Increase learners’ understanding of their own learning
Kelly’s (1996) skills (taken from 1-to-1 counselling skills) Macro skillsInitiating, Goal- setting, Guiding, Modelling, Supporting, Givin g feedback, Evaluating, Linking, Concluding- Vaguely sequential but they may occur or re- occur at any point
Kelly’s (1996) skills (taken from 1-to-1 counselling skills)Micro skillsAttending, Restating, Paraphrasing, Summarizi ng, Questioning, Interpreting, Reflecting feelings, Empathising, Confronting- May occur in combination e.g. questioning requires attending and may also confront
Formal reflections on advising Mandatory 3 completed over the first 3 semesters at KUIS Either on written feedback (using learners’ written course work) face-to-face advising sessions (using audio recordings of the sessions)
Formal reflections Advisor writes a reflection document More experienced advisor adds comments Advisor responds to commentsThese documents are confidential and only normally seen by the ELI management & the learning advisors who wrote them
Carried out in 2010 All 15 LAs (past & present) asked for permission to analyse their documents - permission obtained from 14 Focused on face-to-face session reflections 21 face-to-face professional development session reflections analysedResearch questions:Which of Kelly’s skills seem most relevant for new learning advisors to focus on?Are there any additional salient skills to be considered?
Macro-skills Goal-setting Guiding Micro-skills Questioning Attending Another skill? Negotiating meaning
Viewed as a vital starting point to the entire session Important to confirm goals meet a combination of learner’s wants, interests & needs Encourage learners to focus or adjust goals to reflect the timeframe, when appropriate
Advisors also set goals: Effectively when focusing on their own advising skills Effectively when a learning plan was previewed before an advising session and the advisor could focus on areas to find out more Less effectively when a learning plan was previewed and seen as a document containing problems to fix
Many advisors identified this as the most problematic macro-skill, commonly observed as: Too much advisor talk time Closed (yes/no) questions used to lead the learners to a particular point with no real learner choice
More appropriate guiding involved: Delving deeper with open questions Finding out why learners had made their choices as it could: Reveal learners had clear rationale Allow more learner reflection around the choices they made Keep ownership of learning plans with the learners
Many advisors identified this as the most problematic micro-skill, commonly observed as: Closed questions used to lead Open questions which are difficult to answer Opaque Tangential Requiring specialist knowledge Asking several questions in 1 utterance
More appropriate questioning involved: Closed questions used to establish a fact or belief that was unknown to the advisor before moving to open questions With difficult-to-answer open questions, advisors who dealt well after uttering these: Stopped Summarised the recent part of the discussion Contextualised the question Restated or broke down the question
Attending was referred to as much as questioning in session reflections but not always by the advisor. It often took comments from the experienced learning advisor to identify it as absent The underlying reasons appeared to be: Learning advisor agenda Pressure to perform (evidence knowledge) Discomfort with silence
“Pausing and leaving time for reflection is one of the difficult skills which and advisor has to learn”Mozzon-McPherson (2000)
Learning advisor awareness appears to be key to improving this skill Where data was available for more than 1 session reflection, subsequent sessions had attending clearly identified as requiring and receiving attention and this heightened awareness led to greater satisfaction with the implementation
This could be realised by any or a combination of micro-skills such as paraphrasing, attending, summarizing, restat ing or questioningNegotiating meaning could be instigated by either the advisor or learner and would go some way to ensuring the dialogue progresses in a direction both participants understand.
However on reflection I could have clarified a little more, for example when she said, “I write sentence” does she copy the sentence from the book or does she make her own sentences? Also I assumed when she says, “and speaking” that she means she repeats out loud the new vocabulary and sentences she has written down however she could have meant that she uses it in conversation.Learning advisor session reflection
This presentation gives an insight into the perception advisors have of their advising sessions and the common areas they focus on using Kelly’s (1996) counselling skills as categories for analysis. Despite the diverse teaching experience LAs had before coming to KUIS it became apparent through this investigation that goal-setting, guiding, questioning and attending are perceived as particularly important and requiring attention. The findings also suggest that Kelly’s skills require modification with the addition of negotiating meaning, a skill implemented to provide clarification and focus.
Brian R. Morrison email@example.com This presentation is available online at:http://kandaeli.academia.edu/BobMorrison
Kelly, R. (1996). Language counselling for learner autonomy: the skilled helper in self-access language learning. In Pemberton, R., Li, E.S.L., Or, W.W.F., Pierson, H.D. (Eds.). Taking control: Autonomy in language learning. Hong Kong University Press, pp.93- 113. Mozzon-McPherson M., (2000) An analysis of the skills and functions of language learning advisers. In Victori M. (Ed.), Links and Letters 7: Autonomy in L2 Learning, Barcelona: Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. pp.111-126.