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ERIC Number: ED530113
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 418
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1094-4728-6
A Matter of Alignment: An Organizational Analysis of the Advisor Role in Three Small Urban High Schools
Phillippo, Katherine L.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University
Recent research literature suggests that students benefit from positive relationships with their teachers. Small high schools attempt to formalize expectations for such relationships through a variety of organizational structures, including the advisor role. As advisors, teachers work with a group of students in order to guide and support them. Advisors involve themselves in their students' academic lives by monitoring their performance and progress towards graduation. Also, advisors typically address social and emotional issues that threaten to compromise students' academic performance or well-being. Despite the importance of student-teacher relationships, teachers are not often prepared for aspects of their jobs that extend beyond matters of curriculum and instruction. This mixed-methods, comparative case study explores the advisor role and reports upon how teachers enact this role, how both teachers and students respond to it, and how personal and organizational factors contribute. Data were collected in 3 small high schools in an urban regional area of California. Participants at each of the participating schools indicated that the advisor role was an important, emphasized feature of the schools. Yet, to varying degrees at each school, this role remained under-conceptualized. Advisors often reported having a limited sense from their school's leadership of how to do their jobs. Organizational resources (e.g., school-based mental health services, designated teacher collaboration time) with the potential to support advisors generally had an inconsistent or weak connection to the advisor role. The complex teacher-advisor role worked optimally when organizations aligned key supports with it, and did not work as well when these supports and the role were misaligned from one another. If key supports were out of reach for any reason, groups of teachers or individual advisors often created alignment for themselves. Teacher teams gave needed conceptual guidance, information and advice about to how to carry out the advisor role. Some individual advisors brought relevant personal resources (e.g., skills, knowledge, experience or support) or ideas about advising to this work. If their schools provided insufficient guidance for the advisor role, these individuals were able to adapt and improvise on their own, generally experiencing clarity and success with the role. Quantitative and qualitative data indicate that advisors with well-developed ideas about their work had students who perceived higher levels of teacher support. When advisors lacked personal resources or ideas that helped their advising work, they encountered more difficulties connecting with students, facilitating advisory class periods, and keeping up with the multiple demands of the role. These individuals had higher rates of role overload and lower rates of job satisfaction and perceived self-efficacy. Boundaries emerged as a key issue with all advisors; it proved essential yet difficult to draw boundaries that protected advisors from overextending themselves but also maintained engagement with students. Students' responses to the advisor role, which "designed" teachers into their personal lives, varied depending on the quality of the relationship with their advisors. Students who trusted their advisors expressed a greater willingness to engage in close interpersonal relationships with them. Issues of privacy of student information emerged as a significant theme in students' trust of advisors and other adults in the intimate organizational setting of the small high school. Students' privacy concerns inhibited their openness to advisors, teachers, and social-emotional support providers (school counselors, social workers and psychologists). These findings together imply that complex roles (in this case, the teacher-advisor role) operate most effectively for workers and service recipients (in this case, student advisees) when the role is aligned with key organizational supports. Clear ideas about the role, its tasks and limits helped advisors know how to fulfill their role and assess their performance accurately. Aligned organizational resources such as professional development, social-emotional support resources and access to colleague support helped advisors to acquire and use the skills necessary to engender students' trust (and therefore to advise students well), and to enact the advisor role at minimal negative cost to advisors. Teachers struggled when shouldering responsibility for the complex teacher-advisor role alone. Ideally, teachers would experience support in this endeavor from school and district leaders, teacher educators, allied professions, and educational researchers. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California