Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of articles written by students enrolled in Jennifer Bloom's graduate seminar on academic advising at the University of South Carolina during the spring 2009 semester. As part of her course syllabus, Dr. Bloom required each student in her class to submit an article to The Mentor or other publications for consideration.
Advisers are generally very nice people who truly enjoy working with others and positively influencing people's lives. However, sometimes being student-focused precludes advisers from focusing on their own lives. Many advisers have begun to adopt the Appreciative Advising model in their work with students. Appreciative Advising is a social-constructivist advising philosophy that provides a framework for optimizing adviser interactions with students in both individual and group settings (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008). The Appreciative Advising framework is a six-phase model that advisers can use in their work to help students realize and achieve their greatest hopes and dreams (Bloom et al.). To be effective as an Appreciative Adviser, advising professionals must first practice what they preach by reflecting on their own hopes and dreams. The purpose of this paper is to provide advising professionals a framework within which they may work through the six phases of Appreciative Advising for themselves. By taking the time to do these reflection exercises, advisers will become more familiar with the process of Appreciative Advising, more self-aware with regard to personal accomplishments and dreams, and better able to utilize the Appreciative Advising model with students.
Appreciative Advising Phases
There are six phases to Appreciative Advising: Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don't Settle (Bloom et al., 2008). This section outlines how Appreciative Advisers can use these phases to self-reflect on their own strengths, dreams, and plans.
In the Disarm phase, Appreciative Advisers purposely present themselves and their workspace in a welcoming manner to their students (Bloom et al., 2008). The goal is to help the student feel comfortable and safe during his or her advising interactions. In order to accomplish this objective, Appreciative Advisers need to first personally disarm and figure out what makes themselves feel comfortable and safe in their own working environment. Here are some sample Disarm questions for Appreciative Advisers to ask themselves:
- Does your office reflect your style and personality?
- Is your office clean and organized?
- Are the temperature and furniture comfortable for you and your students?
- Is the office decorated in such a way that it reflects your hobbies, family, or other outside interests?
Take a look at your office from a new perspective. Ask friends and colleagues if they think your office reflects your style and/or personality. Sprucing up your office can be as simple as adding new photos of friends and family or as elaborate as requesting a fresh coat of paint and/or more comfortable furniture. Be sure to showcase your accomplishments and adventures outside of work.
Another strategy is to look at yourself in the mirror. How do you perceive yourself? A student will pick up on your self-perception, so make sure you have a positive view of yourself. Is it time for a new haircut, piece of clothing, or a massage? Consider splurging on a brightly colored new shirt, new shoes, a gym membership, or an inexpensive pedometer. You may even want to consider having your teeth whitened with the intention of sharpening your most effective Disarm tool: your smile. The point here is not that advisers need to spend money to feel better about themselves, but rather that Appreciative Advisers need to feel good about themselves.
In the second phase of Appreciative Advising, advisers use positive open-ended questions in an attempt to learn more about their students' academic and personal journeys (Bloom et al., 2008). In turn, Appreciative Advisers should be reflective about their own journeys. When Appreciative Advisers take themselves through the Discover phase, they become better equipped to guide their students through the phase. Take some extended time to reflect on the questions below and write down your answers. This may be an ideal time to start a weekly journal in which you reflect on these and other similar questions:
- What do you enjoy most about advising?
- Name two people's lives you have positively impacted. How did you impact their lives?
- What aspects of your own educational and/or life journey make you proudest?
- Who provided vital emotional support to you on your journey?
Appreciative Advisers need to remember the people who have helped them accomplish their hopes and dreams. Our network of supporters helps us realize that none of us is successful without the love of family, friends, and colleagues. This would be a good time to send one or more of your supporters a letter detailing how important they have been to you, how they have positively impacted your life, and how thankful you are for the important role they have played in your life. Other options include phoning these friends, mentors, or family members or scheduling a lunch to tell them in person. Appreciative Advisers are thankful and know how to express it.
In the Dream phase of Appreciative Advising, advisers again utilize positive and open-ended questions in an attempt to help students uncover their desires, hopes, and dreams (Bloom et al., 2008). Appreciative Advisers should first take the time to reflect on their own lives, career goals, and dreams. Under the assumption that we each have just one life, ask yourself these questions and write down your answers or share your answers with a trusted friend or colleague with the intention of seeking advice about how to actually accomplish your goals.
- What are your wildest dreams for your future?
- What can you do this week to inch closer to making it happen? This month? This year?
- If you were going to start a charity, what would the mission of the charity be?
- Who will you be in ten years and how is that person different today? Who will your students be and what can you do to help them get there? What will they be able to accomplish as a result of your work with them?
In the fourth phase of Appreciative Advising, advisers act as facilitators and guides to help the student develop plans to accomplish the goals identified in the Dream phase (Bloom et al., 2008). Likewise, Appreciative Advisers should start planning how to most effectively accomplish their dreams. This is done by setting goals that are measurable, succinct, relevant, and realistic.
Appreciative Advisers also recognize the importance of support from colleagues, friends, and family to accomplish their goals. Bloom (2008) refers to this network of people as a Personal Presidential Cabinet. The adviser intentionally selects each member of the adviser's Personal Presidential Cabinet and delineates the role each member plays in helping the adviser accomplish his/her goals. Be sure to include people on your Personal Presidential Cabinet who support you, celebrate your accomplishments, and give you a kick in the butt when needed. Sample self-reflection questions include:
- Who is on your Personal Presidential Cabinet?
- How can your Personal Presidential Cabinet help you figure out where you want to be professionally and personally, and how can they help you achieve your goals?
- How will you celebrate your achievements?
- What strategies will you employ when faced with obstacles?
During the fifth phase of Appreciative Advising, the student delivers the plan co-created with the adviser (Bloom et al., 2008). It is important for Appreciative Advisers to be aware of their own Deliver process and to constantly evaluate it. Sample Deliver questions to ask include:
- Are you celebrating when you succeed or make notable progress? How?
- Are you reevaluating your goals as you change?
- Is your appreciative mindset expanding into other parts of your life?
- Are you receiving feedback about your progress toward professional and personal goals?
The sixth and final phase of Appreciative Advising is Don't Settle. In this phase the adviser encourages the student to strive for greatness rather than settle for the simplest accomplishment of goals. Since Appreciative Advisers understand the need to motivate their students to continuously reach higher, they themselves should understand the struggles and glory that lie in persistence and high expectations. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of the sixth phase of Appreciative Advising and in order to serve their own students, Appreciative Advisers should take themselves through the Don't Settle phase. Be aware of your contribution to the field and to the lives of others and constantly strive to contribute more. It is important to remember the difference you are making in the lives of the students you serve.
You can always be a better person and a better professional. Appreciative Advisers know to celebrate their successes but never settle on those brief moments of magnificence. Instead they work to create those moments more often and for more students. The Don't Settle phase of Appreciative Advising is like the popular children's board game Chutes and Ladders. The game is played under the assumption that if a player keeps rolling the dice, he or she will eventually reach the goal (in the case of the board game, the goal is arriving at space number 100). Despite the fact that on our journey to accomplish our biggest hopes and dreams, we will undoubtedly face obstacles and unexpected setbacks, if we continue to roll the dice, we will eventually climb the right ladders and avoid the pesky chutes. Persistence leads to the achievement of goals. Here are some self-reflection questions for advisers based on the Don't Settle phase:
- How can I continue to improve myself as an adviser?
- What is one thing that I can do better tomorrow than I did today?
Appreciative Advisers understand their strengths and potential to contribute to their students' successes. They are also motivated to increase their advising skills and constantly strengthen their advising repertoire. By first taking themselves through the phases of Appreciative Advising, advisers can achieve that goal and can become better people and professionals. Appreciative Advisers revisit this process often and work through the phases in order to more positively impact the lives of the students they serve.