Advising African American Males: From the Advisor's Viewpoint
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Research acknowledges high quality advising as being linked to retention and student success. Training and professional development received by academic advisors is undoubtedly connected to the quality of advising and a significant amount of research has been carried out on this topic. Unfortunately, the current research related to advisor training and professional development is limited, in that differences in advising practices for ethnic minorities, especially African American males are scarcely considered. In addition, while current literature and research has identified variables related to African American males and advising, the perspectives of professional academic advisors is seldom represented in the literature.
The purpose of this study was to analyze workplace learning experiences of professional academic advisors, utilizing adult learning theories (in particular, self-directed learning, experiential learning, and transformative learning). Specifically, this study sought to understand how advisors learn to serve African American males more effectively. Workplace learning experiences as well as adult learning concepts were investigated as advisors entered the profession and as they continued to develop in their careers. This phenomenological study included analysis of interviews and critical incidents described by nine academic advisors from a predominately White public emerging research university, now designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS) in the southwest region of the United States.
Overall, the concepts of experiential learning, self-directed learning, and transformative learning were evident in the advisors’ learning experiences. These experiences were also analyzed in terms of elements and concepts of workplace learning and the level of formality were used to facilitate learning. Results indicate that workplaces that presented opportunities for both nonformal and informal learning were the most impactful to advisors’ learning for serving African American male students. The results of the study inform current advising practices regarding work with African American males and dispute notions that nonformal learning is ineffective to advisor continued education. Informal learning was also identified as significant in advisor education. The findings carry implications for training and development of advisors as well as alternative solutions to assisting African American males within the advising process should nonformal methods such as conferences not be available. Ideas for future research on advising African American males at community colleges, private universities, multiple four-year public universities, in addition to advising other diverse populations are also presented.