Clarity, connection and community: A conversation model for advising

Jennie R Blake (University of Manchester)

Monday, April 3, 2023 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

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Session Outline

Student sense of belonging is strongly linked to their sense of being heard, especially by key members of staff such as academic advisors. (Sunday Blake, 2022) Although advisors, or those in similar roles, are frequently a member of staff a student “sees” first, and often meant to be a first port of call for a myriad of questions and crises, issues around belonging, and the relationship between advisor and advisee can interfere with a student taking up the support offered, finding the support they need or even drive them further away from university support structures. There are also complex power dynamics at play, often pitting expert support (found in the advisor or member of staff) against lived experience (brought by the student). After a small research project at the University of Manchester, a new model for conversations between advisors and advisees was crafted in partnership with current advisors and students. (Blake, 2021) This model was crafted to reflect the context of:

  1. The inherent power imbalance present when a student is speaking with a member of staff
  2. The barriers to students accessing appropriate support without having to constantly “reexplain” their situation and experience
  3. The limitations on staff time and resource to “solve” problems for students

The model is focused on practical and achievable actions, agency on the part of the student and clarity of expectation in the relationship between students and members of staff. While it is focused on the practical, it is situated within wider thinking and research into equity and belonging, especially the work of Cobb and Krownapple and adrienne maree brown. (Cobb & Krownapple, 2019) (maree brown, 2017) This context allows the model to work on two levels: first, it works to ensure students receive the support they need; second it tries to embed visible equitable practice into a key relationship between the institution and its students.

This workshop will introduce participants to this conversation model and, using adrienne maree brown’s framework of “seeding the small”, work with participants to embed more equitable structures and models in their own context. (maree brown, 2017) Each activity in the session will be linked to facilitative frameworks such as Emergent Strategy and Intentionally Equitable Hospitality and will be suitable for applying in their own right in the participants own institutions. (Bali & Mia, 2022)

Participants can expect:

  1. A full explanation of the model and research behind it
  2. Activities meant to explore the adjustments needed to “fit” the model to their own contexts
  3. Opportunities to iterate the model as a whole, contributing to its continued evolution
    1. After the session, participants will walk away able to discuss and disseminate the model in their own context, apply key elements of the equity work behind the model and begin to seed similar initiatives in their own institutions.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
P3 - Commit to students, colleagues, and their institutions through engagement in continuing professional development, scholarly enquiry, and the evaluation of professional practices