Advice needed on Advisories.

Evidence shows that Advisories either work really well or are a complete waste of time.  I have already had some interesting discussions on Twitter about how to make best use of Advisories in school.  I just wanted to use this space to share my ideas and clarify my thinking.

In my opinion, Advisories should be:

  • ENGAGING  –    High school students seem to fall into two categories:   the disengaged or the over-stressed.    One reason for this might be because schools do not always give students the space to navigate their own meaningful pathways.  One programme that might do this is the  Wayfarers Programme devised by Stanford University.  What makes the programme interesting from a NZ perspective is that it is inspired by the Pasifika people’s wayfinder navigation.  Wayfinder allows students to find the ‘feed-up’ that makes learning more relevant.   I believe that an Advisories programme needs to incorporate ideas such as these in order to better engage students, activate them as agents in their own learning and guide them towards becoming more effective 21st century learners.
  • SUPPORTIVE –   The advisories that work have a strong crew mentality.    A whakatauki that would suit the programme (and which would link very nicely with the Wayfarers programme) might be  He waka eke noa   (a canoe which we are all in with no exception.)    Advisories should comprise a group of students who are looking out for each other – something along the lines of the Band of Brothers initiative devised by Iain McGilchrist at John McGlashan College in Dunedin.  In such a system all students are tracked and supported, feel that they are on the same journey and actively support each other.
  • STUDENT CENTRED – The Advisory sessions should be where students have the opportunity to speak openly and share concerns / goals / aspirations / academic progress / problems / challenges / successes.  Advisories should be a place where students can openly discuss the things holding them back and reflect on their growth as learners.  It should be a place where all students feel safe enough to speak up. The programme should be student led and students should be able to give feedback to teachers on issues that are important to them. The programme should be co-constructed with the students and should not be prescriptive. Each Advisory group might have a different programme depending on the needs of the students in it. Students could come up with the agenda identifying what they think is important from a list including ideas such as:  mental health, well-being, academic progress,  goal-setting,  careers,  academic conferencing,  habits of work,  personal goals, student engagement in class, teacher feedback, growth-mindsets e.t.c
  • EMPOWERING   Students will quickly lose interest in any Advisory programme if their views are not taken seriously. The Teach the Teacher programme looks to empower students by taking their ideas and using them to inform future staff professional development.  This seems like an incredibly powerful idea.    In this programme, feedback from each Advisory group is discussed by a team of student leaders who identify common themes. The students use this information to devise and provide PD back to the teachers!  The programme has worked well in a number of Australian schools and could form a very  important part of any Advisory programme.

I am keen to hear from others who have used some of the programmes listed here and have been able to make Advisories work in order to help students find purpose.   In fact, I am keen to hear from anyone who has used Advisories, in any form,  and is willing to share their experience.


Cook-Degan, P. (2016, January 11). Seven ways to help high schoolers find purpose | greater good magazine. Retrieved from

Educational leadership:Multiple measures: Feed up, back, forward. (2009, November). Retrieved from,-Back,-Forward.aspx

Schwartz, K. (2017, September 25). Helping teens find purpose: A tool for educators to support students’ discovery | mindshift | kqed news. Retrieved from


1 comment on “Advice needed on Advisories.”

  1. Kelvin Furze Reply

    Great feedback from Rototuna Junior High. Advisories are described as form rooms on steroids. They meet for 15mins every morning and sessions include a quick ‘What’s on top’ and cover admin tasks, plus may include circle time etc.

    They also have BIG BLOCKS of 100minutes, 3 times a week. These sessions cover things like: metacognition, reflection, workshops, health curriculum, leadership programme, assemblies, physical exercise, circle time, restorative sessions. Lots of 1-1 time for individual coaching and mentoring while others in the class get on with set tasks.

    Advisories are vertical .

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