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Overview

The most effective student advisories serve more than one purpose. They may be part of a course or focus on one or more of the following objectives:

  • community building
  • social-emotional learning
  • volunteering or service learning
  • study skills and work habits
  • individual learning plans and/or personal goal-setting
  • interest-centered or negotiated curriculum, such as project-based learning

Goals may have a school-wide focus that change over the course of the school year. Student advisory time is:

  • regularly scheduled
  • ranges from 1-3 times per week
  • from 15 minutes to 2 hours per week

Most advisories are a combination of:

  • group activities
  • individual activities
  • one-to-one interactions between the teacher and student

Some advisories involve all grades, while others are a group of peers in the same grade. In larger schools, student advisories can be small communities that create an environment where every student is well known by at least one adult working in the school.

The teacher advisor is often an advocate for this group of students and a point of contact for the family. In many schools, all teaching staff, including administrators and specialists, serve as teacher advisors.

For an advisory to be effective, it must reflect and contribute to the overall culture of the school. An advisory requires:

  • time
  • planning
  • reflection
  • revision as needed

Benefits

Student advisories are connected to improving high-school completion rates. They also impact students’ post-school outcomes, including pursuing post-secondary opportunities.

Other documented benefits include:

  • improved attitudes toward school and learning
  • improved student-teacher relationships
  • increased feelings of belonging

Foundational ideas

Student success is connected to positive relationships with school leadership.

Every student needs to have a relationship with at least one adult in the school characterized by:

  • warmth
  • concern
  • openness
  • understanding

Success can increase for students when they are well known by at least one adult in the school.

Trust, respect, mutual obligation and concern can have powerful effects on relationships between educators and students, academic achievement and overall well-being.

How to implement student advisories

The following are key components that can lead to a successful student advisory:

  • clearly defined purpose that all members of the school community understand and support
  • thoughtful organization that includes dedicated time and space
  • clearly identified scope and relevant content that aligns across the school
  • advisors who understand their role as facilitators of learning, mentors and role models
    • staff has ongoing professional learning, support and opportunities to plan and reflect with other advisors
  • student voice, ownership and opportunities for meaningful engagement and personalized learning
  • a focus on lifelong learning, skill development and content that extend beyond curriculum
  • ongoing assessment and evaluation to measure outcomes and make informed decisions about the evolving needs of students and the school community

Examples

Student advisories will look different at different schools, depending on the needs of the students, the resources and the priorities of the school community.

The following fictional stories are examples of what student advisories might look like in practice.

Middle school or junior high school

Student advisory time is focused on developing leadership skills. Once a week, students work in groups for one hour to participate in service learning activities. Teacher advisors create opportunities for students to explore leadership qualities and develop goals and personal action plans. Advisory time is also used to reflect on progress and participate in learning activities that support common goals.

Senior high school

At a large Grade 9 to 12 high school, student advisories meet twice a week for 35 minutes. Each group consists of 15 to 20 students in the same grade. The teacher advisor stays with the group throughout the 4 years of high school. The focus of this advisory varies by grade level.

  • Grade 9 advisory groups focus on: the transition to high school by working on study skills and community-building activities
  • Grade 10 advisory groups focus on: social issues, such as healthy decision-making, conflict resolution and social justice
  • Grade 11 and 12 advisory groups focus on: career exploration; individual learning plans; and skills for the workforce