Teachers Providing Social and Emotional Support: A Study of Advisor Role Enactment in Small High Schools
by Kate L. Phillippo — 2010
Background/Context: This study investigates the teacher’s role in the student advisory process, which to date has generated limited research literature. Teachers who serve as student advisors assume a role that extends beyond the more traditional instructional role, and includes implied or explicit expectations to provide student advisees with academic and nonacademic support. Part of this nonacademic support role involves providing social and emotional support to students. This study particularly focuses on the advisor role and advisory programs in small high schools, where other social-emotional supports for students (e.g., counseling) are often limited. The small high school model places a premium on strong student-teacher relationships, rendering advisory programs a central structure for this school model. Organizational theory that distinguishes role complexity from organizational complexity further frames the study, which explores the complex teacher-advisor role in an organizational setting that has intentionally decreased the number of differentiated professional roles.
Research Question: How do teachers in small high schools enact their advisor roles, specifically their roles relative to the social and emotional support of students?
Participants: Teachers assigned the role of advisor in three small public high schools.
Research Design: This study is a qualitative study with a theoretical framework based on Giddens’ structuration theory.
Conclusions: Advisors were found to possess identifiable characteristics that impacted how they enacted their roles, and ultimately, provided support and guidance to their students. These characteristics concerned advisors’ background knowledge, relevant experience, skills and guiding principles about advising. Teacher education, either in preservice or professional development settings, contributed minimally to the personal resources and schemas, or guiding principles, that teachers used as they enacted the advisor role. Advisors with lower levels of personal resources, and less developed role schemas, tended to struggle more with the role, while advisors bringing more of these assets to their work experienced greater comfort and effectiveness with it. Implications are discussed for the small schools movement, teachers’ potential to provide social and emotional support to their students, and role complexity within organizations.
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