Editor's note: This is the seventh 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.
Research has shown that college students who maintain higher levels of academic hope experience a higher level of academic success (Lopez, 2008). Hope theory is based on the work of C. R. Snyder and involves three components: goals, pathways, and agency. These components involve a person's ability to conceptualize their goals, develop pathways to achieve those goals, and remain motivated (agency) to follow those pathways to their goals (Lopez). Students with high levels of hope may realize that there are multiple pathways to their specific goals, while students with low hope may become frustrated when a pathway is blocked, because they fail to recognize sufficient pathways to their goals. Using Snyder's hope theory, specifically the Academic Hope Scale, is beneficial when advising students, because hope not only is an important predictor for academic success, but it also predicts overall life satisfaction and psychological and physical well-being (Chang, 1998). Although the assessment of students' personal well-being is often neglected in advising sessions, research demonstrates that academic success and personal well-being are intertwined. Thus, comprehensive program evaluation efforts should include efforts to document the effects of advising on academic success and personal well-being. The purpose of this article is to introduce advisers to the Academic Hope Scale, provide the benefits of using this scale when advising students, and discuss the implications of using this scale for advisers.
How to Measure Hope
The Revised Domain Specific Hope Scale, the most recently developed hope scale, assesses hope in nine life areas (social-peer, family life, romantic relationships, religion/spiritual, physical health, psychosocial health, academics, work, and sports) using a self-reporting method. All the domains correlate with others; however, the one that may benefit and interest advisers the most is the Academic Hope Scale. Given the intercorrelations, increasing one's academic hope, in a sense, may benefit other domain areas as well (Shorey and Snyder, 2004). Within each domain, three items in a nine-item assessment test for goals, pathways, and agency components and each one is measured on an eight-item Likert scale (Shorey and Snyder). Students respond to each item with response options ranging from definitely false to definitely true. Of particular note, the scale is quite brief and cost effective; students can complete the scale as individuals or in groups in only a few minutes. Nevertheless, despite its brevity, the preliminary research findings support the measurement properties of the scale. For example, the reliability is high (Shorey and Snyder). The Academic Hope Scale items can be found in Appendix 1.
Positives for Increasing Hope
There is a wide array of reasons why it would be important to understand our students' hope levels. Academically, it has been shown that there is a strong correlation between students who score high on the Academic Hope Scale and higher GPAs (Curry, Snyder, Cook, Ruby, & Rehm, 1997). Students exhibiting higher levels of hope also were more likely to have graduated within six years and less likely to be dismissed from the institution (Lopez, 2008). Lopez also reported that students with higher hope levels have the capacity to create more pathways for their goals. Because of their ability to create these multiple pathways, they are able to better deal with stress, allowing them to perform better in stressful academic situations.
Outside the classroom, students who have higher levels of academic hope set more goals. Students who set more goals are then more likely to pursue goals beyond the classroom and become more engaged within their institution (Lopez, 2008). The increasing links between student success and academic hope show that it is important to detect a decrease in students' levels of academic hope early to aid students in better developing their strategies (pathways) to their goals and building up their confidence (agency) in reaching those goals (Snyder et al., 2002).
Implications for Advisers
Advisers can use the Academic Hope Scale to identify their students' levels of hope in order to better understand and encourage their students. Students' levels of hope can be determined by having them take the Academic Hope Scale instrument during their first advising meeting. The following section identifies three types of hope levels: high hope, Lost Talent, and low hope. For each category, specific suggestions apply to help students increase their hope levels.
High-Hope Level Students
High-hope students are able to visualize many different pathways to reach their goals, and they can conceptualize roadblocks to these goals. They also are more likely to plan accordingly for these roadblocks and find ways around them. Such blocks can be seen as failures to low-hope students; in high-hope students, however, they are seen as challenges. These students, because of their positive outlook, focus on reaching their goals and experience less stress academically and in other areas of life (Snyder et al., 2002). In working with higher-level hope students, advisers can offer ways to keep the student engaged in goal setting or agent thinking (Snyder et al.). High-hope students often can build a false sense of academic accomplishment through complacent learning, or obtaining the same goal over and over again. The more advisers know their students, the better they can seek and plan positive learning goals with these students. The adviser can challenge high-hope level students to become active in both in-class and extracurricular opportunities, such as hall government or research opportunities, available to them through their college. Positive learning goals are important, because they keep the students actively engaged in their own learning by challenging them to create new pathways for their goals (Snyder et al.).
Lost Talent Students
There is a subgroup for those who score high on the Academic Hope Scale but do not necessarily exhibit the same positive successes that others do. These students are referred to as the Lost Talent (Snyder et al., 2002). Lost Talent students are generally successful when it comes to the pursuit of their goals but choose goals that are either very easy or selected just to please others. They have lowered their own academic expectations of themselves, yet they appear to be successful at the easier tasks they choose to do. This sometimes makes it difficult to identify Lost Talent students. If advisers are able to identify these students, they may take a more strengths-based approach and relate the students' strengths to ways they can become more involved in their own success. Advisers can strive to create a community or network with these students. This network can be a selection that both adviser and student develop for the student to use. According to Schreiner, Hulme, Hetzel, and Lopez (2008), This focus on 'membership' fosters a sense of belongingness that contributes to a sense of community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986) and begins to build relatedness and competence among the students (p. 8). Telling students they have certain strengths and suggesting outlets that play to these strengths may inspire students to expand their goals or create new, more challenging goals. Advisers may also help to create, along with the student, active learning strategies that aid in the classroom experience. Advisers can encourage these students to join a study group and to meet with their professors during office hours. Small successes in the classroom can lead to more positive emotions about their learning. When students recognize these emotions, they are better able to solve problems, and their ability to think creatively and critically is enhanced (Schreiner et al., 2008).
Low-Hope Level Students
Low-hope students typically give up when faced with roadblocks, because they cannot conceptualize other pathways. Because of their inability to develop other pathways, they view this as failure. Failure can amount to frustration, loss of confidence, and lowered self-esteem (Snyder et al., 2002). Like Lost Talent students, low-hope students may lower their academic expectations when they encounter goals they cannot reach. Snyder et al. found that students do not increase academic efforts following failure. This is when the amount of knowledge advisers possess can be crucial in aiding a low-hope student.
As they work with lower-level hope students, advisers can help them create better pathways. Increasing their ability to find and successfully follow pathways may lead these students to feel they have control over their academic success (Snyder et al., 2002). Students who experience this control and turn it into a positive not only have an increased sense of well-being, they also expand their ability to learn in different ways (Snyder et al.). Giving students outlets to achieve smaller successes can lead to increased performance in the classroom. When this occurs, advisers can then step in like they would with Lost Talent students and aid in developing new academic pursuits.
The Academic Hope Scale can be used both as a way to measure our students' wellness and as an assessment tool. By using this scale, advisers have one more way to demonstrate the impact academic advisers have on their students. Not only are advisers able to track a student's sense of well-being (or hope), but they can better understand where students may fall when first entering their advising centers. This assessment can help advisers determine what sort of assistance each student may need. The active involvement of a student's adviser as well as the student's participation can only yield a positive learning experience for these students. Taken together, the inclusion of academic and non-academic outcome measures may provide a more comprehensive picture of the usefulness of student advising programs.