About Self-Advising

In a co-creative education, in which student agency is a central value, students must make a wide variety of choices. These choices include designing their own curriculum, which graduate programs they will seek to enroll in, and possible careers to pursue, but also include where to focus their efforts in studying effectively and developing themselves. Making such choices is an ongoing process. Besides the formal moments of decision-making in co-creative education, such as applying for a specific course, students are continually thinking about how they will shape their education throughout their studies. Many students find it hard to think about their futures in a structured fashion and to gauge the long-term implications of their choices. Self-advising is a way of stimulating students to address these questions and making this process more productive and engaging.

In order to make deliberate decisions about their education, students must have insight into a variety of domains. Some of these are about themselves; they must know about their own academic strengths and weaknesses, but also about their own learning style. Additionally, they need information about the possible choices they can make (including about what courses, programs and careers are available and might be suitable for them), and what the likely consequences of various choices will be. It is only by having a well-rounded understanding of all these issues that students will be able to make informed and authentic choices.

One way of providing insights into the aspects mentioned above is through advising. This is when relevant and appropriate information is presented to students to facilitate decision-making. However, advising is also about stimulating students to reflect on their values, ambitions, strengths, weaknesses and the like, to make these explicit and to act on these insights. In-person faculty advising and peer advising are tried and tested ways of doing so.

It is possible to supplement these advising methods by providing a range of tools and resources that can help students gain insight into aspects that are important in making decisions on their own. These tools and resources can provide personalized information and recommendations or prompt targeted reflection on specific issues. In this way, students can support their own decision-making process and educational development. This process is referred to as self-advising.

Supplementing faculty and peer advising with self-advising tools has a number of benefits. Some of these are practical. For instance, students can use self-advising tools and resources at all times, which means that they are not restricted to booked appointments and office hours. They allow students to spend as much time interacting with these tools as they need to and they may do so in private, without fear of being judged or having to respond in the moment. Moreover, such systems are capable of accommodating a large number of students. There are also more fundamental advantages. Self-advising resources that provide information about possible choices and personalized recommendations can be based on up-to-date information. Similarly, online reflection tools enable students to recall previous entries and chart their own development over time accurately, as such systems have perfect recall, while a faculty advisor’s recollection may be faulty. 

It cannot be stressed enough that self-advising tools and resources are not intended to replace faculty- and peer-advising. As will be discussed in the sections dedicated to individual tools and resources, they have important disadvantages and limitations. Notwithstanding these, self-advising can be used to supplement more traditional forms of advising. For example, by providing input for conversations with faculty advisers and peers, by generating suggestions for possible choices and enabling students to formulate insights that can then be discussed in person.

This toolkit contains 2 categories of self-advising tools. These are:

Guided Pathways Providing students with personalized recommendations and suggestions for choices they face.

Structured Reflections Providing students with tools that enable them to reflect on their learning, development, strengths and weaknesses, and values.