What is the ideal size for an advisory group?
It depends on the goals you’re trying to accomplish (ie: a group focusing on intrapersonal skills needs to be smaller group than one where information is being shared). On the average, however, 12-15 students per group can be ideal. The size of the group necessarily varies by school with the needs of the group, the number of adult advisors available, the physical meeting spaces available, and so on, playing a role in the decision.
Should a school step slowly into an advisory program or dive in and include all students at the same time?
Again, it depends on many factors, and each design team will need to decide what's best for their school. Keep in mind, however, that it is an option to start the advisory program with one or two grade levels and add the next level in the following years.
Which adults should be advisors? How many advisors will I need?
Consider that faculty, administrators, counselors, librarians, coaches, paraprofessionals, coordinators, secretaries, and custodians are among the adults in a school that can be advisors. Some schools choose to have only certified staff for advisors. Others recognize that all adults have something to offer and the knowledge base to deliver the advisory program to students. One benefit from including all adults is that the school breaks down the hierarchies and spreads credibility more widely, giving all adults in a school the chance to build relationships which helps in other roles.
Some adults in the school, however, may not be suited to or willing to fill the role of advisor. Consider that these adults may detract from the benefits of advisory, and may better serve the advisement program by handling some of the clerical responsibilities.
Should administrators serve as advisors?
Whether administrators should serve as advisors is a decision that the design team needs to consider carefully. When an administrator serves as an advisor, it is a good idea to have them co-facilitate with someone else. Doing so will help to ensure that an advisor is available at the time of advisory should the administrator be pulled away for another concern. One of the advantages to having an administrator serve as an advisor is that, politically, the administrator models the importance of advisement by having an advisory group.
Should counselors serve as advisors?
As with administrators, whether counselors should serve as advisors is a decision that the design team needs to consider carefully. Consider that not having them as an advisor allows for the counselor to be a resource to other advisors where the counselor can help deliver the advisement lesson, or can be a speaker resource for a group of advisories.
Should advisors facilitate alone or in pairs?
In an effort to keep advisory groups smaller, advisors often facilitate alone because of the limited number of adult advisors to advisees. In some instances, however, it is appropriate to consider that advisor pairing might be more appropriate. This is true when an advisor is new to advisory—the new advisor can be paired with an experienced one. Larger groups may require more than one advisor, as well.
Physical spaces available in our building?
Sometimes, the grouping of students for advisement is driven by the number of physical spaces in the building in which to hold an advisory. Be creative in considering where those spaces may be. Besides the obvious classrooms, consider large offices, the library, conference rooms, the auditorium stage, and other spaces not generally used for classes. Additionally, if your advisory groups do not all meet at the same time, you may have more physical spaces available because the same space can be used at two different times.
Organization of groups?
Consider the following items when dividing your students into advisory groups. Keep in mind that the most important consideration of grouping is defining what you want the groups to accomplish as a result of advisory.
- Separate grade levels or mixed?
- Grade-specific advisory groups
- 9th grade groups dedicated to transition, 10th-12 mixed
- 9th-10 mixed, 11th-12th mixed
- 9th-11th mixed, 12th grade-level specific
- 9th & 12th grade-specific, 10th-11th mixed
- Groups that include all grades
- Strong content focus = grade-level specific
- Strong school-wide community building = mixed grade groups
- Benefits and drawbacks to all configurations
It is perfectly OK to consider advisory groups that are gender specific, especially when the content or goals of advisory might be better addressed with a heterogeneous group. Some middle schools find that those advisory groups separated by gender allow for deeper discussions, where students aren't afraid to speak up and express themselves among their own gender. Additionally, some topics are better and more thoroughly addressed with single-gender groups: sex education, sexual harassment, and dating violence, for example.
Process for assigning groups?
The process for assigning groups can be random or deliberate in nature, and can vary with each and every school. Some examples follow:
- Same as first-period class?
- Assigning every nth name on an alphabetical list (most often brings less parent complaints)
- Intentionally mixing groups
Process for assigning faculty?
As with assigning students to advisory group, a number of different considerations can be made as to what advisor to assign to each group. Some options follow:
- By grade/group they teach?
- With those they don’t have in class?
- Those they have in class so they get to know them in greater depth?
- Clusters? Houses? Teams?
Should advisors “loop” with a single advisory group?
Another consideration in group students and advisors is whether or not the advisor should stay with the same group of advisees throughout their time in a given school building. In other words, should the advisor move with the students from one grade to the next? You may want to make this decision based on the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Advantages include 1) getting to know students in depth; 2) forming tighter relationships; 3) gaining consistency in how a particular advisory is conducted and what the advisor and advisees can count on from each other. Disadvantages include: 1) it is often not conducive to "loop" with students when the advisories are divided by the Career Cluster students are interested in pursuing; and 2) when being an advisory for one group or another requires specialized knowledge.
Should students remain together in an advisory group for multiple years?
A general rule that will help the advisory design team decide whether or not to have groups of students remain together for multiple years is this: If your advisory groups meet only one or two times/month, it is best to have the same group stay together for multiple years. If, however, the advisory meets weekly or daily, the advisory group may benefit from going through the group-building process each year in a new advisory group.