This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Examination of Academic Advising Style Preference in Undergraduate Students




Yarbrough, Elizabeth

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


As universities put increasing pressure on student retention and success, academic advising has become an increasingly visible and important part of the university. One of the first examinations of advising contrasted two major styles: prescriptive and developmental (Crookston, 1972). Prescriptive styles are based on the expertise of the advisor. Advisors tell students what to do, and the student follows through. Developmental styles are shared processes in which the advisor and student have equal authority. Advisors talk about options, explore alternatives, and concentrate on the development of the student as a whole. The predominant measurement tool for prescriptive and developmental advising styles, the Academic Advising Inventory, examines the two as opposing ends of a dichotomy (Winston & Sandor, 1984a). However, additional research suggests that advising style may be better measured as two separate dimensions, rather than as a continuum. Other theories conceive of task and relational behaviors that may correspond to prescriptive and developmental advising styles if they are two separate dimensions, rather than two ends of a continuum. In particular, Hersey and Blanchard's (1988) Situational Leadership Theory argues that leadership has two major components: task direction and relationship behaviors. Hersey and Blanchard's (1988) model provides a model of the potential change in student advising preferences over time. Task direction, or prescriptive approaches, may be more useful for students of low readiness, for example new freshmen. As they progress in college, and become more ready for academic tasks, they need progressively less task direction, or prescriptive approaches, and more relationship behaviors, or developmental approaches. This study was designed to investigate the nature and pattern of students’ preferences for academic advising styles and the way these preferences change over time, as well as to explore the possibility of two separate constructs within advising style, rather than a single continuum. This study posed three hypotheses in order to examine the academic advising style preferences of undergraduate students. The first hypothesis tested whether the Prescriptive/Developmental Preference scale assesses different constructs than the Academic Advising Inventory. The second hypothesis stated that college students’ advising preferences differ as a function of their academic development. Finally, hypothesis three claimed that readiness for college will be a significant predictor of preference for academic advising style. Investigator-developed questionnaires, as well as the Academic Advising Inventory, were used to survey undergraduate students. Support was found for hypothesis one, but not for hypotheses two and three. No differences in advising style can be attributed to classification. Reported college readiness is predictive only of high prescriptive/high developmental advising preference cluster membership. Differences were observed in advising style preference between men and women. The findings of this study suggest that students’ concentrate more on the advising situation, than the advising style. Advising style may play a secondary role, but the emphasis for students is the advising function, rather than advisor behaviors. Implications for future advising research and practice are included.