Advising with ePortfolio: Professional Development

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At LaGuardia, the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills is a recently formed professional development seminar that is in the experimental stage. This seminar provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to work together to explore important questions about advising, pedagogy, and ePortfolio:

  • How do we guide students’ educational growth and change?
  • What roles can faculty play in advisement? How might faculty and staff collaborate to facilitate this process?
  • Working with first generation college students, how can we help them envision and build new identities as learners and emerging professionals?
  • How can ePortfolio be employed as an advising and pedagogical tool used to encourage student discussion of academic, career, and transfer issues in their disciplines?

Authors
Rajendra Bhika, CPA, MS, Associate Professor of Accounting, LaGuardia Community College, Mercedes Del Rosario, Ed.D., ePortfolio Director, Danielle Insalaco-Egan, Ph.D., Senior Director for Academic Advisement, and Bernetta Parson, Director of Transfer Services

Description

advise_1_editAt LaGuardia, the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to go beyond the common perception of advising as “course selection” and examine factors critical to how the Council on the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education defines advising as “helping students develop meaningful educational plans.”

Part I: Overview and Setting

The existing literature does not offer many suggestions for a successful model that can guide faculty and staff as they work and think together about the potential for using ePortfolio to facilitate advisement conversations with students.

The Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar presents a great opportunity for LaGuardia faculty and staff to explore, learn, share, and shape the work being done in higher education as it relates to using ePortfolio for advisement.

The objectives for the seminar allows participants to:

  • Gain a thorough understanding of academic advising theory, including distinctions among developmental, prescriptive, and intrusive advising as well as advising-as-teaching.
  • Develop and utilize best practices in advisement to support students, and build a supportive network of college personnel and resources to contact for assistance.
  • Comprehend transfer-advising theory and utilize a transfer readiness rubric in work with students.
  • Explore, adapt, and demonstrate ePortfolio practices they use to help students identify interests, skills, strengths, and areas needing improvements, in order to facilitate their transfer between courses, between semesters, and from LaGuardia to a senior college or career opportunities.
  • Develop and use ePortfolio practices to foster reflective and integrative learning and to help students develop and strengthen critical thinking and decision-making skills by evaluating their goals and plans.
  • Promote learning-by-doing by developing and using ePortfolios to chronicle students’ learning and growth over the course of the seminar.

Currently, the seminar is year-long and open to faculty and staff. Though a rigorous application process, it caters to roughly 20 – 25 participants during a given academic year. This is unlike the prior (few) iterations of the seminar that were offered only to a few participants over one semester.

Faculty and staff in the seminar meet for nine monthly interactive workshops (i.e., two from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM and seven 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM meetings). In addition to these face-to-face conversations, seminar participants and facilitators are able to communicate and share questions, comments, etc., on various activities through a seminar ePortfolio.

The leadership team for the seminar is composed of four experienced faculty and staff from across LaGuardia — the Senior Director for Academic Advisement, the Director of Transfer Services, the Director of the College’s ePortfolio Program, and an Associate Professor from the Department of Business and Technology. These individuals are very much involved with the College’s effort to explore and use ePortfolio to facilitate pedagogy, outcomes assessment, and professional development practices.

Recent cohorts of seminar participants consist of roughly 20 – 25 participants (e.g., program directors, faculty, professional advisors, and counselors – both full-time and part-time) from various departments/divisions (e.g., Business and Technology Department, Cooperative Education, Health Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science, Counseling, the Accelerated Study in Associate Program, the College Discovery Program, etc.) across LaGuardia.

The integration of faculty and staff in this professional development seminar stresses the idea that it takes an entire college community to learn, teach, and support the efforts that provide a meaningful and effective advisement structure for students. Having a group of individuals (i.e., participants and leaders) with diverse knowledge, skills, and perspectives from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs speak volumes about LaGuardia’s efforts to foster connections across divisions, departments, and programs.

A seminar of this nature is new.

Part II: Practice Step-by-Step

The strength of The Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar is built on the diversity of perspectives and experiences brought to the conversation by the seminar leadership team and its participants.

Over the course of the academic year, seminar participants explore advising topics and complete various activities relating to, amongst others, the following:

  • Types of advisement (e.g., developmental, prescriptive, intrusive, and advising as teaching and learning).
  • Using ePortfolio for academic, transfer, and career advisement.
  • Advisement using motivational interviewing techniques.
  • Developing/using advising syllabi.

Listed below are sample activities that faculty and staff work on during the monthly seminar meetings.

Sample Seminar Activity # 1: Exploring ePortfolio for Academic, Transfer, and Career Advisement

This activity prompts participants to work in groups to explore ways ePortfolio can be used as an advising and pedagogical tool to engage students in conversation about academic, career, and transfer issues.

The Activity

Today (the second week of the semester) you are scheduled for an advisement session with a student currently in your class. During a brief (end of class) one-minute discussion, the student mentioned to you that he/she would like to discuss various issues (e.g., course selection, transfer and senior college options, career exploration, etc.) with you. You realize that the student has an ePortfolio that you can explore.

Participants will be assigned a group to work with to complete this activity.  Each group will consist of 5 or 6 members.

  • Part I: Twenty Minutes: Groups will review the assigned student’s ePortfolio and take notes as it relates to the following:
  • What do you notice about the student’s ePortfolio?  Did anything grab your attention?  Which sections of the ePortfolio do you believe played a significant role for you to understand the student better (i.e., his/her objectives and goals, knowledge and skills, experiences, etc.)?
  • Part II: Thirty Minutes: Groups will complete the following:
  •  Each member will briefly share their thoughts with his/her group as it relates to Part # 1 above.
  • Flip Chart Activity: Taking into consideration what you observed from reviewing the student’s ePortfolio, if the group had to develop an Introductory ePortfolio/Advisement assignment that focuses on either (a) course selection, (b) transfer and senior college options, or (c) career exploration, what would be the key objectives of that assignment? Does the group have an idea of what the structure of this assignment would look like?

Document your ideas and concerns to these questions on the flip chart provided.

  •  Part III: Twenty-Five Minutes: Each group will have 5 minutes to share the contents of their flip chart with the entire committee and receive feedback.

This activity allows faculty and staff to reflect, engage, and share their diverse knowledge, skills, and perspectives, and think about how best they can work together to leverage ePortfolio during the advisement process to support students’ longitudinal growth and success.

Sample Seminar Activity # 2: Advisement Using Motivational Interviewing Techniques

How can motivational interviewing techniques be used to facilitate the advisement process to help students increase their readiness for change?

Thinking about integrative support for advisement, students, faculty, and staff from LaGuardia Performing Arts Center developed and performed several skits to help seminar participants think about ways motivational interviewing techniques can be used to facilitate advisement conversations with students.

In the scene presented below, a professional actor plays the student, but the advisor is a faculty participant (unscripted) in the seminar who reacts to a situation presented as if she would normally do when dealing with a student during an advisement session. This activity was completed towards the end of a seminar meeting after faculty and staff had an opportunity to explore the theory and practices of motivational interviewing.

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This activity — the acting, the role-playing, and the video — are innovative, and are all stored on the seminar ePortfolio, so that participants, over time, can review and reflect on these activities.

After the completion of this activity, seminar participants are asked to use their individual seminar ePortfolio to document their thoughts as it relates to the following prompt:

  • Identify and reflect on an instance in the past where you dealt with a student and the steps you took to apply one of the five “Principles of Motivational Interviewing” (GRACE). With these ideas in mind, what could you have done differently? How could ePortfolio have helped to facilitate this conversation with the student?

This and other reflection activities, completed by seminar participants using their ePortfolio, promote learning-by-doing and allow them to think about how they can document their efforts for using ePortfolio to advise students.

Sample Seminar Activity # 3: Advising Students Using ePortfolio

Thinking about the work of faculty and staff during the Academic Year 2012 – 2013 iteration of the  Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar, each participant was asked to document his/her experience with using ePortfolio to advise one student throughout the academic year (i.e., started early and completed towards the end of the year, or depending on the progress of the advising sessions). A set of suggested prompts, covering key areas of the advising continuum (i.e., benchmarking, knowing thy advisee, transfer, and advising for success) were provided to the participants to help guide their advisement efforts.  Examples of these guiding prompts are shown below.

Advising Image # 1

Advising Image # 2

Feedback received about this activity during the monthly meetings from seminar participants pointed to the impressive amount of depth, richness, and level of exchange and interaction ePortfolio facilitated between the participants, and their advisees. This intentional and purposeful integration of ePortfolios in advising provided both the adviser and the advisee a space and an opportunity for deeper and profound exchange and a level of respect and trust – the pillars of sound and relevant advising.

In the following video, Professor Andrea Francis, Assistant Professor of Accounting, Department of Business and Technology, shares her thoughts on several activities participants completed during the Academic Year 2012 – 2013 iteration of the seminar.

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Part III: The Role of Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration

The concepts of inquiry, reflection, and integration are explored during the conversations that happen between the participants and facilitators of the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar. The integration of faculty and staff in the seminar fosters discussions, activities, etc., where participants examine and share practices that work for them, and identify areas that they need to re-examine and refine. One essential aspect of the seminar is the level of questioning that occurs between the seminar participants — about advising, pedagogy, ePortfolio, etc. That said, participants begin to realize how much and where critical support is available for students, and where their role begins and ends, if at all, as advisors. In essence: the integration of perspectives lead to inquiry and reflection.

See Part II: Practice Step-by-Step above to review activities completed by faculty and staff during the seminar to prompt inquiry, reflection, and integration, and allow seminar participants to think about what they currently do guide and support students, and how these practices can be strengthened using ePortfolio.

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst 

Pedagogy

The integration of faculty and staff in the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar provides an opportunity for fruitful conversation, where faculty and staff draw on their expertise and exchange best teaching and advisement practices. Whether it is thinking about approaches to integrate advisement practices into an existing syllabus, developing prompts to support reflective, social pedagogical, assessment, etc., practices, the seminar provides a space for participants to collectively think about ways  they can use ePortfolio practices to facilitate advising as teaching — in order to help students develop objectives and goals, identify interests, skills, strengths, and areas needing improvements. Combining the reflective and integrative nature of ePortfolio pedagogy with advising as teaching practices seems ideal to help students develop and strengthen the critical thinking and decision-making skills necessary to foster academic, transfer, and career success.

Thinking about the role of the seminar to facilitate faculty and staff working together to provide an integrative advisement experience for students, one seminar participant said, “It crystallized our obligations as faculty advisors and how our work gets complemented with professional advisors.”

Scaling Up

The Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar is advancing LaGuardia’s efforts to scale up its ePortfolio program in a new and exciting direction – using ePortfolio to facilitate advisement conversations with students.

Our work with ePortfolio in this seminar facilitates connections on several levels.  For example:

  • Some participants in the seminar have completed the Connected Learning and the Re-thinking the Capstone Experience professional development seminars.
  • One faculty who participated in the Connected Learning and the Re-thinking the Capstone Experience professional development seminars is a member of the College’s C2L Team and is currently facilitating The Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar.
  • The seminar’s leadership team serve as members of the College’s Making Transfer Connections Team.
  • In nearly all professional development seminars offered by the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning, ePortfolio is explored as a pedagogical tool and a technology to strengthen and sustain a rich teaching and learning experience for students, faculty, staff, programs, and the institution.  As of Fall 2013, over 80,000 have been created.
  • ePortfolio for advisement is being examined to facilitate high impact practices (i.e., our work with the first year experience, capstone courses, internships, study abroad experience, etc.). Currently, two major initiatives at the College (i.e., First Year Experience and the Advising Design Team) are examining how ePortfolio can be used to (a) help create a robust new first-year experience program, and (b) facilitate a discipline-based advisement model for students.

Assessment 

Given the diversity of the participants in the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar, how do we know that the seminar is effectively achieving its objectives? How do we know that the participants are reaping the benefits intended by the seminar? Are the seminar activities facilitating fruitful conversations?

Feedback from participants via an electronic survey, administered at the conclusion of each seminar meeting, is currently the primary mean by which we are gathering data to assess the effectiveness of the seminar, and changes that may be warranted. Highlights of the surveys are as follows:

  • When asked “Did today’s discussions and activities teach you something you believe will inform your work with students?”, on average, 98.8% of the respondent answered “Yes.” For one particular session, one participant added, Today’s session was really well planned. We discussed some key points with regard to advising philosophy and implementation. This was followed by a practice on a real case, which I found was really useful.”  Another member of the group said, “The topics were presented in a clear and organized way. I was able to make connections and think about my role as an advisor.”
  • Thinking about how the seminar facilitates the conversation about using ePortfolio for advisement, the participants have shared the following on how this tool can be used to advance their advisement efforts with students:
    • “I learned a great deal about connecting ePortfolio to advising.”
    • “I learned about what to look at on an ePortfolio to find out about a student.”
    • “I would really like to have a departmental ePortfolio. I think both the faculty and students can benefit from having that information be accessible. I also think that it is a vital “resume”/goal creating tool in our department.”
    • “I am continuously getting ideas which I hope to incorporate in a program ePortfolio that can be used for advisement.”
    • “I am learning for the first time about the resources available in the school to support students and faculty as well as the usefulness of ePortfolio to accomplish a good advising process.”
    • “This is my first exposure to ePortfolio so for me each one of the “pieces” was a learning experience. Thanks!”
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of a wide range of activities incorporated during seminar meetings as it relates to advisement, pedagogy, and ePortfolio – participants have provided the following feedback:
    • 94.4% of the participants surveyed rated an activity centered on the topic of Motivational Interviewing: Principles, Skills, and Practices to be “Very Valuable.”
    • 93.8% of the participants surveyed found an exercise focused on the responsibilities of faculty and professional advisors, and where their roles diverse and intersect, to be “Very Valuable.”
    • 93.3% of the participants surveyed rated a group activity to draft an advising syllabus to be “Very Valuable.”
    • 81.0% of the participants surveyed appraised a discussion centered on (1) the types of advising — prescriptive, developmental, learning-centered as noted in Marc Lowenstein’s article If Advising is Teaching, What Do Advisors Teach? (2005), and (2) the connection between the advising syllabi and ePortfolio as highlighted in Kathleen A. Ward’s From First Year to Career: Connecting Advising Syllabi to Electronic Portfolios (2008), to be “Very Valuable.”
    • 80.0% of the participants surveyed found a conversation about the Transfer Rubric and how its elements connect to ePortfolio to be “Very Valuable.”
  • When asked “Overall, how effectively did we present the topics today?”, on average, 93.5% the respondents rated their experience to be either “Exemplary” or “Very Good.”

This information and data points to the rich conversation the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar is facilitating as LaGuardia and the higher education community explores new ways to use ePortfolio for advisement.

Technology

As noted throughout the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar practice, ePortfolio is examined as a tool to integrate the efforts of faculty and staff to provide effective advisement (i.e., academic, transfer, and career) for our students so that they can learn, grow, and change — from the outset to their last semester at LaGuardia.

Conclusion

As LaGuardia seeks to enhance students’ online experience, a consideration of digital tools for advising is warranted. Currently, ePortfolio is one instrument explored in the Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills as a means to facilitate an advisement process built on consistent communication and collaboration between students, faculty, and staff, in order to help prepare students to make the transition between courses and semesters, and from LaGuardia to senior colleges and career opportunities. The work of faculty and staff in this seminar to think about and explore innovative ways of providing timely, relevant, and consistent information to students is supporting the work the College is doing to redesign its advisement model and first year experience program. See our Next Steps section for more details on these initiatives.

When asked to rate the overall effectiveness of an Art of Advising: Learning and Implementing Holistic Advisement Skills professional development seminar session and how well the seminar leaders presented the day’s topics, one participant responded that it was a “good mix of theory and practice.”

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