Better Together: Advisor-Advisee Relationships at the WW Graduate School
Faculty Matched with Teacher Candidates for Personal and Educational Development
“Sure, we have an advisor-advisee relationship, but it’s the other small things that flatten the relationship—advising is understanding and thinking about TCs as a whole person,” Dr. Connie Chow says about her advisee, teacher candidate (TC) Kristin Cooper. Every graduate student is used to the idea that professors have office hours where you can stop in occasionally to ask questions. At the WW Graduate School, advisors don’t just answer questions. They understand an advisee’s philosophical dilemmas, frustration when none of the students understand a lesson they tried to teach, or excitement of having found a new resource for asynchronous teaching.
While the competency-based model at the WW Graduate School enables each teacher candidate (TC) to advance through the program at their own pace, TCs are never alone on their journey. Every TC is paired with an advisor who serves as a guide. Through each aspect of the M.Ed. program—mastering competencies, developing tools to design solutions to classroom challenges, and practicing teaching in actual classrooms—faculty and staff are there to guide every TC’s educational and personal development.
The relationship between advisor and advisee starts with a matching process. Advisors prepare small presentations about themselves, their interests, and their experience. TCs then have the opportunity to submit preferences for the advisor they would like to be matched with.
Cooper was drawn to Dr. Connie Chow because of their shared interest in science education. Now she relies on Dr. Chow as a coach and colleague. “It’s nice to always know that somebody’s there for you,” says Kristin. “It’s an ongoing thread of us working together, and Connie always knows what’s going on.”
Dr. Chow says the advisor-advisee relationship is rooted in the five C’s: “challenge and curriculum, clinical, connections, care, and career.” She considers the five C’s critical both to the TCs’ progress in the program and to their personal well-being and growth. “The relationship is not just about the logistics of the theory that they have to master,” she says, “but also about them as a whole person.”
Early advising meetings between Dr. Chow and Kristin began formally, occurring every other week and centered around the five C’s. But soon this opened the door to a more integral relationship between advisor and advisee. “My favorite part of advising is the relationship,” reflects Dr. Chow. “It’s finding out more about who [TCs] are, what brings them to become interested in education, and other cool aspects of their lives.”
Having Dr. Chow as an advisor has been a great benefit for Kristin as she makes her way through the WW Graduate School program. “Because I have an advisor who knows me as a person, and knows my day-to-day,” says Kristin, “is what makes the relationship unique and good.”
Their bond is both a source of comfort and growth for Kristin. As a science TC, she likes that the Graduate School curriculum isn’t just about solving problems, but also focuses on addressing the right problems. “Connie never answers any questions, she just poses more questions, and it helps me do a lot of deeper thinking.”
On numerous occasions, Dr. Chow has encouraged Kristin to pick topics she was less familiar with in order to challenge herself. “It’s been a great growing process,” says Kristin. “She’s helped me with making big ideas real.”
As she navigates the challenges of real classrooms using what she’s learned at the Graduate School, Kristin also turns to Dr. Chow as a sounding board. “We can co-design and bounce ideas off each other,” says Kristin.“The relationship brings another level of confidence that you’re making good choices in the classroom.”