Academic Advising Experiences ofFirst-Year Undecided Students at aPublic Southeastern High Research Activity Institution Kyle Ellis, Ph.D. NACADA Region IV Conference March 12, 2012
Purpose Statement• The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore academic advising experiences of first-year students who were undecided in a major at a public southeastern high research activity institution, and how academic advisors could better serve them relative to these experiences.
Significance of the Study• High institution acceptance rate.• Needs improvement in graduation rate.• Undecided majors have lower graduation rates.• Lower retention from year one to year two.• Preliminary exploration of a larger problem of undecided students being retained and graduated from the institution under study.
Research Questions• How do students being advised by the Advising Center (AC) describe their experiences and perspectives on academic advising during their first year of college?• How can the AC and the academic advisors better serve these first-year students relative to their experiences and perspectives of the advising process?
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE• Academic Advising Structure• Academic Advisors• Freshmen Experiences with Advising• Impact of Academic Advising• Defining the Undecided Student
METHODOLOGYThe research design for this qualitativecase study focused on rich, meaningfulnarrative data gathered through a series ofindividual student interviews. Open-endedquestions focusing on first-year students’experiences encountered during theacademic advising process guided thestudy.
Research Design• Phenomenological qualitative study• Purposeful sampling• Open-ended questions• Individual interview design 1. 16 questions (fall); 8 questions (winter/ phone); 13 questions (spring) 2. Digitally recorded and transcribed 3. Coded for themes
Participant Characteristics• 30 First-year students undecided in their major. – 30 participated in fall – 25 participated in winter – 25 participated in spring – 16 male (53%); 14 female (47%) – 21 Caucasian (70%); 8 Black (27%); 1 Asian (3%)
List of ParticipantsJason Jackie CathyCarla Sara ClayTamara Walt KarenChad Chuck JoshMonique Sue ZairiaRoxanne Karl AlexFadra Ralph ThadBernard Lucy ChrisRick Heather PaulKeisha Wesley Mike
Advising Center (AC)• 4 professional advisors• One-on-one advising sessions• Appointment vs. Walk-in• Developmental Advising
Findings• 5 Themes emerged from participants’ interviews: 1. High school advising experiences: A mixed bag 2. No major, no problem. Or is it 3. So many choices, so little time 4. Learning to crawl before you walk 5. If only I would have known
Theme 1:High school advising experiences: A mixed bag• Satisfaction with advising prior to college – 9 Good, 9 Bad, 12 Neutral• Who helped before college – Over half named more than one person – Family members were most common
Theme 2: No major, no problem. Or is it• Concerns about being undecided – Almost all participants admitted at least one concern in the fall – Only eight admitted a concern in the spring• Messages from others – Fall: 11 Positive, 10 Negative, 9 None or neutral – Spring: 7 Positive, 2 Negative, 14 None or neutral
Theme 3:So many choices, so little time• Majors under consideration – Fall: 28 (93%) claimed at least one major of interest; 15 (50%) cited two or more; 2 (7%) had no majors of interest. – Spring: 15/25 (60%) declared or were very confident in one major; 10 considering multiple majors; 0 had no majors of interest.• Appeal of certain majors – Various reasons
Theme 4:Learning to crawl before you walk• Initial advising expectations – 19 expected help with course selection – 5 expected to discuss possible majors – 5 had no expectations – A few surprises• Actual advising session – Almost all were positive in describing the advisor’s location and availability – Fall: 83% positive; Spring: 96% positive
Theme 4:Learning to crawl before you walk• Preparation for the next session – Research possible majors – Research class availability – Get advised earlier – Unsure• Thoughts on college advising – 100% positive response rate
Theme 5: If only I would have known• A look back – 22/25 spring participants admitted their advising expectations have changed• Advice for future first-year students – Most common advice: Have an open mind; Do not worry; Advisors will help you; Have some majors in mind• Making advising better – A mixed bag
Discussion• Advising satisfaction: A tale of two situations – High school advising – College advising• A sprint versus a marathon – Short-term goals (sprinters) – Long-term goals (marathon runners) – Combination (relay racers)
Discussion• It is no coincidence, it is confidence – Changes from Fall Spring – Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development (Chickering and Reisser, 1993) – Career Barriers Inventory (CBI) (Gordon, 2007) – Career Decision-making Difficulties Questionnaire (CDDQ) (Gordon, 2007)
Implications for Practice and Policy• Nexus between advising efficiency and student development• Findings will allow practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to further explore how efficient academic advising impacts student development and vice-versa• Overall goal of student retention and timely graduation
Implications for Practice and Policy• High school personnel• Students’ families• Future students• Academic advisors• Academic advising administrators
Implications for Future Research• Quantitative Research – Larger number of participants – Freshmen with declared majors – Faculty in contrast to professional advisors – Generalized findings
Implications for Future Research• Qualitative Research – Focus more on student development – Focus more on relationships with others – Students’ experiences before they arrive at college – Expand career exploration piece – Extended data collection
Implications for Future Research• Mixed Methods Research – Multiple institutions under study 2.Quantitative survey to gauge a large number of participants 3.Qualitative interviews to follow up on findings from survey
ReferencesChickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Gordon, V. N. (2007). The undecided college student: An academic and career advising challenge (3rd ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.