Skip To Main Content

Developmental Advising versus Prescriptive Advising

Hide All  Show All

Developmental advising is a holistic approach to student advising. NACADA’s motto, “Advising is Teaching”, fully encompasses the idea that advising is much more than assisting students with course selection. Advisors have the opportunity to help students learn about themselves, what they want to achieve and how to be self-sufficient (King, 2005). The Advisor serves as a teacher and guide through an interactive partnership to help students make decisions for themselves (O’Banion, 1972). The Advisor also facilitates students’ growth and understanding of themselves and how their decisions affect others while assisting students toward critical thinking skills (Crookston, 1972).

Prescriptive Advising is rooted in a Doctor-patient model in which the Advisor "prescribes" solutions or answers for the student. The patient or student, takes the prescribed information and follows it. In this model, the Advisor tells student what to do in all circumstances. The purpose is to deliver accurate information to as many students as possible in an efficient manner.

In many cases, advising requires the use of both models. Highly motivated students may require a prescriptive model and may not desire or need a developmental approach. Other students, particularly those from underrepresented populations typically require more intervention due to personal challenges and barriers faced as they pursue college.

Please see the case studies below to assist you in advising students

Jane is a 23-year-old student in junior class standing. She is overwhelmed by the academic demands of the quarter to the point of feeling immobilized. She has missed several class meetings over the past 2 weeks and has been a “no-show” for two mid-term exams.  She is indecisive about whether she should withdraw from her courses or “stick it out.”

Possible answer:

It is best to start off by asking the student the following question: “Is there something else going on outside of school that could be causing your feelings of being overwhelmed?” As an Advisor, you can encourage the student to use Student Health and Counseling Services to work on stress management. Talk to the student about creating an action plan for the quarter. If the student discloses they have a disability, refer them back to the DRC to speak with a counselor OR if the student is in treatment, refer them back to their counselor/doctor. If the student is considering dropping the class, explain the policies. Require the student to come to regular advising appointments so you can follow up with the student and hold them accountable.

Back to top

  • Do you work or have a family in addition to going to school? How many hours do you work? Will this allow you to take an appropriate number of courses for your graduation plan?
  • How much are you on campus?  Only for classes or for more than just classes?
  • How much time out of class do you spend on average each week in on your classwork?
  • Do you ever recopy or summarize your notes after class?
  • Do you study with other students?  How?
  • What do you consider a good course schedule?
  • Do you have a calendar or other long-range (months out) scheduling tool?  How do you use it?
  • Do you have a standard weekly schedule that includes dedicated time beyond scheduled classes?
  • Are you happy with your grades from the last two quarters?
  • What challenges did you face during the last two quarters? What accomplishments did you make?
  • What do you plan to do with your degree and what do you plan to do after graduation? What GPA is needed to accomplish your post-bacc goals?
  • What goals have you set for the next quarter?

More reading:

Building Effective Communication through Listening, Interviewing, and Referral

Back to top