The following is an outline of the presentation by Marc Lowenstein at the regional NACADA conference in Pittsburgh , April, 2003; it was written and distributed by him. In the past two years the Dickinson Registrar's Office has moved to actively put the computer to work to do the advising Dr. Lowenstein identifies as "advising as bookkeeping." The role of the Faculty as advisors is primarily that role he identifies as "advising as teaching."

We gratefully acknowledge Dr. Lowenstein's succinct and clear presentation of the distinctions and character of these types of advising.

If Advising is Teaching, What Do Advisors Teach? By Marc Lowenstein
Richard Stockton College, N.J.

Three conceptions of advising - each with analog for teaching

Advising as bookkeeping (sometimes called "prescriptive advising")

  • Tell students what to do
  • List requirements, rules
  • Check things off list
  • Can be done by a careful clerical - or by a computer
  • Cf. in teaching - reciting lists of facts for memorization/regurgitation
  • Both are boring, but both are sometimes necessary 

Advising as counseling

  • Looking out for individual growth and development
  • Good for advisor to attend to this, just as it is for the teacher, but
  • It's not the heart of what the teacher needs to do, teacher needs to convey the intellectual content of the course
  • Similarly, the advisor has an intellectual content to convey as well which isn't accounted for by talking about development  

Advising as teaching

What does an excellent teacher do? Serves as coach, facilitates student's learning of the subject matter

  • Organizes and sequences the material to facilitate students' learning.
  • Focuses on modes of thinking
  • Models for the student how one might interact with the material
  • Helps put it in perspective of other things student knows
  • Brings out interrelationships of ideas -e.g.
        (a) led historically to (b )
        (a) contradicts (b)
        (a) is an example of (b)
  • Helps student synthesize an overview of the material --an understanding of its structure or "logic" -which, once you have it, permits you to assimilate and (if necessary) memorize some of the relevant facts.
  • Sometimes, puts the course as a whole in perspective, relating it to other courses the student has taken or to the entire curriculum.

Each student's understanding of the material and of its structure may vary slightly from the others' depending on students' own interests and experiences, though it will be influenced by the professor's vision of the material's structure.

Similarly an excellent advisor does the same thing for the student's entire curriculum in that the excellent teacher does for the course.

  • Helps students put parts of the curriculum in perspective relative to others
  • Compares and contrasts modes of thinking of the various disciplines
  • Helps students sequence their learning experiences to optimize their effectiveness
  • Brings out interrelations among disciplines and modes of thought, helping the student to discover how they complement each other
  • Helps the student pay attention to transferable skills being developed, and to focus on how various courses enhance these in various ways
  • Helps the student focus on modes of learning that are being mastered, and on how intellectual growth involves mastering a variety of these
  • Helps the student synthesize an overview of his/her education, an understanding of its structure or "logic"
  • Helps the student make choices among courses and curricula based on his/her emerging understanding of the direction and goals of his/her education 

Each student's overall curriculum as he/she understands it will be unique, even if the courses are the same ones another student takes, because of the uniqueness of the student's contribution and reasons for taking the courses - but also because of the advisor's help in constructing an overview.

Looked at in this way, the advisor's work can play a tremendously important role in the student's academic career, one to be proud of.

  • More important than bookkeeping 
  • A kind of counseling but focused on the 'cognitive' rather than 'affective' side. 
  • Doesn't exclude either bookkeeping or counseling


Crookston, B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12-17. Reprinted in NACADA Journal, 14:2,5-9.

Hemwall, M.K., & Trachte; K.C. (1999).Learning at the core: toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19: 1, 5-11.

Lowenstein, M. (1999). An alternative to the developmental theory of advising. The Mentor, Nov. 22, 1999.

Lowenstein, M. (2000). Academic advising and the "logic" of the curriculum. The Mentor, Apr. 14, 2000.

(URL for The Mentor