Academic Affairs

Academic & Career Advising Task Force

Advisor Competencies

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Brief description of competency: demonstrate ability to relate to individuals and groups of students through the use of communication techniques, helping (counseling) skills, and problem-solving skills.

Summary of Competency's Main Points

  1. Possess ability to communicate effectively through written and spoken word.
  2. Possess ability to listen and respond in a helpful, caring, supportive manner.
  3. Possess ability to observe and interpret non-verbal messages.
  4. Remain flexible in adapting to the various settings (groups, one-to-one) and technologies (telephone, e-mail) used in communication.

Incorporating Competency into Training

Those who develop training programs for academic advisors should include ways in which those they are training develop an understanding for the Conceptual, Relational, and Informational elements of academic advising.

CR I Does your training program for professional and faculty advisors include:
XX X 1.  Current national data relative to the characteristics of today's college-age students, to develop understanding of their perspective?
   X 2.  Instruction on campus technologies used in communicating with others (i.e. voice mail, e-mail, electronic advising file systems)?
XX X 3.  Instruction on effective methods for conducting group meetings?
 X X 4.  Instruction on developing helping/counseling skills, such as active listening, providing acceptance and support, feeling empathy?
 X X 5.  Instruction on observing, interpreting, and reacting to body language?
CR I Questions/activities which may help guide you in the development of your training program:
XX   1.  How would you (the advisor) respond to a student who answers the questions you ask with "I don't know."? (Questions like "Why do you think you got a D on that test?", "What can you do to change/improve your study habits?")
XX   2.  How can you personalize a group meeting situation?
 X   3.  What do you do when a student breaks into tears during an appointment with you?

Case Study

Steve is meeting with you because his name was forwarded to you by his English teacher. The teacher reports Steve is "regularly absent" and currently has a grade "lower than a C". When he takes his seat in your office he appears relaxed, not tense. He makes eye contact easily. He tells you English has never been a good subject for him; when he has trouble writing a paper and isn't ready to hand it in he just doesn't go to class.

How do you carry on a conversation with Steve to learn what's happening from his perspective?

Recommended questions/issues to bring up in discussion with Steve:

  1. How is Steve's semester going overall? How is he doing in his other classes?
  2. How surprised was Steve to learn his English grade is below a C?
  3. Why does he think his grade is so low?
  4. Has he done all the required assignments?
  5. If he hasn't done all his required assignments, why not?
  6. Has he tried talking to his teacher about his writing difficulty?
  7. Is he aware there is tutoring available?
  8. Does he participate in class?
  9. How many times has he missed class?
  10. What are his reasons for missing class?
  11. How does he think an employment supervisor, or a "boss" would react to his absences and poor performance?

The majority of questions in the list above are open-ended, requiring Steve to provide you with information about the way he sees his situation. You need to encourage him to talk about his reasons and rationalizations for his performance. Referrals to a tutoring center or study skills center (if your campus has them) may be acceptable to him, perhaps more so than directly to the teacher; however encourage him to meet with his teacher because s/he is the one person who can help Steve understand her/his expectations. Steve's avoidance of the class and teacher are just deepening his problem.