advising and career pathways

Advising is an integral part of adult education, and an increasing focus on effective advising shows exciting potential to create responsive and persistence-focused adult education programs. Transitions into and out of adult education are varied, and advisors draw from a large knowledge base to skillfully guide learners towards their next steps. As the work of effective advising grows, so do the opportunities to integrate advising, especially education and career planning, into program design and ELA, Math, and ESOL classes. Indicator 6 of the Indicators of Program Quality addresses ‘Advising and Student Support Services’, stating: The program ensures effective and equitable delivery of advising and support services. The SABES Program Support PD Center (PSPDC) builds and supports effective advising and equitable delivery through targeted professional development (PD) and additional resources.


There are multiple barriers to learner persistence, and effective advising programs make connections for learners that address these barriers. Standard 6.2 states: The program addresses barriers to participation by referring students to outside social service agencies as needed. To increase advisor awareness of relevant services and programs, the PSPDC provides peer-facilitated Advisor Sharing and Learning Groups across the state. In these groups, advisors discuss factors that impede students’ progress and share practices and resources that will help students meet their goals. In other examples, the PSPDC provides Mental Health First Aid Trainings, and recently completed a webinar series on ADA compliance, etiquette and Universal Design for adult education contexts.


Advising is most effective when integrated into comprehensive program design. Standard 6.3 states: The advisor and instructional staff work collaboratively to create a culture of student self-efficacy and persistence. To increase learner persistence, advisors and teachers share information about learner education and career goals, discuss barriers to attendance, and celebrate progress made. The PSPDC supports this collaboration through Education and Career Planning (ECP) tools and other methods for information sharing. For example, the Tech Tools for Advisors and Coaches session this winter shared digital tools for tracking and sharing learner attendance and ECP goals across the program staff. Additionally, the New England Literacy Resource Center’s adult learner persistence resources illustrate that a culture of persistence involves ongoing collaboration between teachers and advisors. 


Directors play an important role in designing effective advising programs that promote collaboration and create a culture of learner persistence. In a recent round of regional Director Sharing and Learning Groups facilitated by the PSPDC, directors shared examples of how teachers and advisors are collaborating, and discussed how advising programs are being integrated more comprehensively into program design. To further support this work, the PSPDC is offering an upcoming session on Building an Advising Curriculum that will highlight one method for integrating advising into the classroom and overall program design for increased advisor efficacy.


Effective advisors are always increasing their understanding of local labor trends, employment opportunities, relevant college programs, and training opportunities that meet learners where they are. Indicator 6.1 promotes the use of this network of information: Students actively pursue options for postsecondary education, training, and employment based on informed decisions (6.1).The PSPDC supports this work through PD on building career pathways, integrating career awareness, and career-contextualized curriculum development. For example, Navigating Pathways to Opportunity is an upcoming online course that prepares advisors to use a network of support to successfully transition learners to their next education or career step. Other PSPDC sessions include lessons on how MassCIS and O’NET’s My Next Move can be used as tools for informed education and career planning. The Outstatioining Coordinator (OC) is another way that partnerships and pathways are built between adult education programs and MassHire career centers, with advisors playing a key role as liaison to the OC. The PSPDC brief, Partnerships between Outstationed Adult Education Coordinators and MassHire Career Centers, offers examples of OC referrals and describes how learners benefit.


The PSPDC has many upcoming PD events designed to support the indicators and standards of effective advising. Some examples are: Advisor Sharing and Learning Groups; Art of Advising (for new advisors); Career-Contextualized Curriculum, Navigating Pathways to Opportunity, IET/IELCE for Building Partnerships and Curriculum, among others. Sign-up for a SABES account to receive notifications when these events are scheduled. 


PD Center
SABES Program Support PD Center - Advising & Student Support Services