Faculty Advising with Paths to Success


What is Faculty Advising with Paths to Success?

Building relationships between students and instructors is a critical step on the path to student success. Faculty Advising is all about building relationships with students. The faculty advising process is intended to reach out to students to create proactive, preventative and timely intervention. Research indicates that when students have more contact with individual faculty members, they are more likely to be satisfied with their college experience and to remain at college.  

Since 2005, Red River College (RRC) has administered the Paths to Success survey college-wide. This initiative connects students with services and supports as well as informs them of events that will foster engagement at RRC. While this faculty and student advising connection often occurs naturally, a Path to Success Plan helps encourage this engagement as a more common or natural practice early in the program. This student success early alert and retention initiative encompasses: 

  1. Connecting with Paths to Success Survey: Students complete the survey within the first two weeks of the beginning of classes. The survey enables students to identify supports that they would benefit from and captures their opinions about being a first year college student.

  2. Engaging with a Path to Success Plan: Feedback, in the form of a Path to Success Plan, is provided to each student. The plan lists all of RRC supports that match the student’s self-identified needs.

  3. Building Relationships through Faculty Advising: A Faculty Advisor from the student’s program meets with the student to discuss the Path to Success Plan and any other academic concerns that the student wants to discuss.  Faculty Advisors help students become successful by clarifying their goals and objectives, answering their questions, listening to their concerns, and referring them to additional services as needed. Where appropriate, faculty Advisors will refer students to other RRC supports for specific assistance.

Faculty advising is an extension of the teaching role and requires similar skills. Faculty Advisors have their own styles and particular ways of responding to students during the faculty advisor process. The key is to approach student advising as a way to help students learn to problem solve, to collect information, to weigh alternatives, and to understand the pros and cons of different choices. A student’s decision to participate in faculty advising is voluntary. Students can refuse advising and/or referral.

Faculty advising carries with it no expectation that faculty bring anything beyond their program-specific expertise to the student advising process. Students needing other kinds of Counselling or Academic Advising should be referred to Student Services. Or, in situations where students need assistance with program administrative matters outside of the jurisdiction of the faculty member, referral can be made to the program Chair or Coordinator.

Faculty Advising Checklist

Preparing for the meeting:

  • Decide when you’re available to meet.
  • Decide on where you’ll meet.
  • Contact your advisee.
  • Consider questions to ask during your faculty advising meeting:
    • What made you choose this program?
    • How have classes been so far?
    • Did you review your Path to Success Plan?
    • Did you explore any resources listed in your plan?
    • Are you aware of the supports available at the college?
    • Do you have any career plans for after you graduate?
    • Do you want to set up a follow-up meeting later in the term?

Additional advising tips:

  • Take notes about topics discussed and suggestions or referrals made.
  • Set a positive tone through language and non-verbal cues.
  • Listen without judgment.
  • Ensure confidentiality.
  • Be knowledgeable about career opportunities. Help students see the connection between the completion of their educational program and their future careers. 
  • Recommend Student Support Services. Remember that you are advising students about their academic program and if they raise issues beyond your scope, you should know where to refer students to. Refer to the Staff Guide to Student Services for assistance.

Making Referrals

Faculty advising places no expectations on faculty to provide advising in any but their own area of program expertise. Any indication that a student’s needs are outside the scope of faculty expertise should be addressed through referral. Listening to the student or observing his/her behaviour in class may help a Faculty Advisor determine where a student’s needs may be best met for a referral. If it is not clear whether to refer a student to the program Chair or Coordinator or to Student Services, error on the side of caution and connect with someone in your department or in Student Services who can guide you through the process.

Referral to Chair or Coordinator

The following reasons may assist in clarifying if a student should be referred to the Chair or Coordinator:

  1. If the student is having difficulty with the workload of a program and that program offers students the opportunity to study on a less than full-time basis, it is usually the role of the program Coordinator or Chair to explain the process of dropping courses and mapping out a longer term plan for the student.

  2. If the student has a complaint about another instructor, this conversation is best for the student to have with the program Chair.

  3. In situations where the student wants to change sections or is considering withdrawing from a course, the situation is usually best dealt with at the Coordinator level.

  4. A student who wishes to terminate prematurely from a program should be referred to the program Coordinator. This is a touch point when the student is both sensitive and vulnerable. The interventions applied at this time may help the student reconsider his/her options and, if the student decides to follow through on withdrawing, he/she may leave in a positive position to consider returning at another time to RRC.

Referral to Student Services

The following resources and tips may assist with the referral process:

  1. Refer to the Staff Guide to Student Services when determining which Student Support Services would best meet the student’s needs.
  2. Refer to the Faculty Advisors and Student Services Roles Table to assist in differentiating between advising roles.
  3. When discussing a referral, explain why you are recommending the referral and what students can expect from the College staff providing these services. Reassure the student that you are referring them to a resource where they will meet with individuals who can help them with their specific needs.
  4. Reinforce the perspective that these services are used by many students as a part of their Path to Success Plan. Also, reinforce that the use of these services are an indication of strength rather than an indication of weakness.
  5. Remind the student that Student Support Services are free, confidential, and available to all RRC students.
  6. Remember that the decision to accept and follow up on a referral rests with the student. In situations where the student would benefit from additional support, the Faculty Advisor could offer to call for an appointment on behalf of the student or walk the student directly to the Student Service Centre.

Allan Cadger

More Information

For faculty advising information and training support, contact:

Marni Russell
SEM Project Manager