Kie Yamamoto, Kanda University of International Studies
“So, what do you exactly do as a learning advisor?” This is one of the common questions I believe learning advisors get asked. Yes, we engage in different types of interaction than teachers do, yet we don’t necessarily “advise” students. It is evident that the advising dialogue is not just a simple “conversation” and its significance is discussed elsewhere in the literature of advising in language learning (ALL) (e.g. Gremmo, 2009; Kato, 2012; Kato & Mynard, 2016; Mynard & Carson, 2012). However, there are very few opportunities to look inside advising sessions and one of the aims of this column is attempt to address this need as helps us to better understand our practice and learn from each other.
In this third issue of the Reflective Practice column of Relay Journal, as an experiment, seven learning advisors from Kanda University of International Studies in Japan have agreed to share their advising experiences. The series of short written reflections aims to achieve the following objectives: First, this experiment disseminates various aspects of advising practice in order to offer those who have an interest in the field of ALL beyond theoretical approaches a practical glimpse into the world of advising. Additionally, with current the growth of community of learning advisors all over the world, we hope to exchange practical ideas through these reflections and develop knowledge repository through active discussions among the members of the community. Lastly, by collecting multiple voices from advisors, these experimental reflective accounts aim to generate themes that can be further investigated later from sociocultural as well as psychological perspectives.
Each of the seven stories is a personal account of an advising experience with a learner, related to the theme of “the most memorable advising experience this academic year”. Each author shares firsthand challenges, struggles, excitement, appreciation and joy in working with their learners. Shedding light on the multifaceted nature of learning advisors’ roles, the seven stories are categorized into three themes for readability; advisor as an empowerer, advisor as a significant other; and shifting advisor roles in continuous advising.
Across the seven stories, I highlight sociocultural dimensions of advisor development.. The premise of advising is, without doubt, transformational learning through reflective dialogue. Thus, advisors incorporate various advising skills and strategies as described in each story. However, more importantly, what the collection of advisors’ voices provides here is an indication of the multifaceted nature of learning advisors’ selves. Rather than defining who they are, each story illustrates their reflexivity that enables them to listen to individual learners with an open mind and “create a mutually respectful and balanced relationship” (Karlsson & Kjisik, 2009, p.185). While each advisor has had a different approach depending on who the learner is, the advisor’s voice in each story reflects the first principle of transformational advising (Kato & Mynard, 2016), that is, the importance of focusing on the learner. It also reminds readers that advising is an opportunity to “appreciate diversity yet notice every student’s unique experiences” (Karlsson, 2014, p. 409).
Related to advisors’ reflexivity, advisor identity construction appears as a potential intriguing theme in each narrative. While each narrative primarily focuses on the learner in the specific advising experience, it also signals the transformation within the advisor him/herself. As Benson, Chik and Barkhuizen (2013, p. 8) write, narratives “capture the nature and meaning of experiences that are difficult to observe directly and are best understood from the perspective of those who experience them.” By making sense of their memorable moment via storytelling, each of the seven advisors also makes sense of their change and growth as a learning advisor. In this sense, while each narrative is rather short, it touches aspects of narrators’ identities (Benson, Chik & Barkhizen, 2013). It is not my intention to provide an in-depth analysis here; however, I will remark on the significance of the collection of advisors’ voices as it will enable the research in ALL to investigate broader issues and challenges situated in particular social, historical and cultural contexts, as witnessed in previous narrative research in applied linguistics (see Barkhuizen (2013) for a good review).
It is my hope that you delve into the seven stories of journeys in becoming a learning advisor in this column and take a reflective moment—what is a learning advisor? What does an advising dialogue mean to a learner? With your engagement in participating in their stories, each narrative becomes more meaningful. Simultaneously, I truly wish that more contributions from learning advisors to this narrative practice will create an opportunity to cultivate further development in the field of ALL. If you wish to share your response with any of the contributors or write a short narrative related to advising in the future issue, please contact Kie Yamamoto (email@example.com).
I am grateful for members of the SALC learning advisor team at Kanda University of International Studies, who participated in this experimental project. Special thanks go to Huw Davies, Yuri Imamura and Isra Wongsarnpigoon, who encouraged me to start off the project by willingly sharing their advising stories in our coffee-break reflective chat.
Barkhuizen, G. P. (2013). (Ed). Narrative research in applied linguistics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Barkhuizen, G., Benson, P., & Chik, A. (2014). Narrative inquiry in language teaching and learning research. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gremmo, M-J. (2009). Advising for language learning: Interactive characteristics and negotiation procedures. In F. Kjisik, P. Voller, N. Aoki & Y. Nakata (Eds.), Mapping the terrain of Learner Autonomy: Learning environments, learning communities and identities (pp. 145-167). Tampere, Finland: Tampere University Press.
Karlsson, L., & Kjisik, F. (2009). Whose story is it anyway? Auto/biography in language learning encounters. In F. Kjisik, P. Voller, N. Aoki & Y. Nakata (Eds.), Mapping the terrain of learner autonomy. learning environments, learning communities and identities. Tampere, Finland: Tampere University Press.
Kato, S. (2012). Professional development for learning advisors: Facilitating the intentional reflective dialogue. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 3(1), 74-92.
Kato, S., & Mynard, J. (2016). Reflective dialogue: Advising in language learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mynard, J., & Carson, L. (2012). (Eds.). Advising in language learning: Dialogue, tools and context. Harlow, UK: Pearson.