Models of Academic Support and Advising

Models of Academic Support and Advising

Dawn Dillman, Shoshana Zeisman-Pereyo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1468-9.ch013
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This chapter examines learning support models in undergraduate medical education. LCME requires robust system of student support for certification. Learning specialists with degrees in education are frequently in charge of leading student support systems. This may include tutoring programs, United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), and other standardized exam preparation. Visibility and accessibility are key to the success of any support program. LCME also mandates both academic and career advising. Advising, mentoring, and coaching are often thought of as interchangeable terms. However, they each have unique implications and their applicability to medical education is explored. Learning communities are frequently used to enhance the delivery of the advising system. Specific examples are given.
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Academic support for medical students is a broad concept, as the medical student faces intense academic challenges including enormous amounts of information, rigorous testing, strong societal and peer normative pressure, and frequently lack of social support. This chapter will specifically address the following objectives:

  • 1.

    Describe the role of the learning specialist in Undergraduate Medical Education (UME).

  • 2.

    Discuss how to create and evaluate a peer-tutoring system.

  • 3.

    Describe ways to support student preparation for standardized exams, including USMLE.

  • 4.

    Identify the differences between advising, mentoring and coaching, and when each might be useful for supporting the medical student.



The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredits medical schools in the United States, and has standards around student support services. The most pertinent to academic support is:

11.1 Academic Advising

A medical school has an effective system of academic advising in place for medical students that integrates the efforts of faculty members, course and clerkship directors, and student affairs staff with its counseling and tutorial services and ensures that medical students can obtain academic counseling from individuals who have no role in making assessment or promotion decisions about them. (LCME, 2019)

While this leaves substantial room for interpretation, the intent is clear. Students must have academic support from the school that is multi-pronged in approach, easily accessible, and safe to use. The complexity of creating an environment of academic support has led many schools to hire learning specialists to help guide these efforts. The learning specialist can help design and administer programs designed to build academic support including peer tutoring, remediation of academic deficiencies, and test-taking skills. Academic advising for the individual student can be achieved by designing programs using different models of advising, mentoring or coaching, depending on the intent and resources.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coaching: A developmental process by which a learner meets regularly with a coach to create goals, manage existing and potential challenges, and improve performance toward the goal of reaching the learner’s highest potential.

Mentoring: A mutually beneficial relationship in which an expert mentor is able to guide a less experienced mentee towards success in a specific project or career.

Self-Efficacy: Bandura (1977) defined self-efficacy as one’s belief in his or her own ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task.

Self-regulated Learning Theory: A cyclical process that includes goal setting, process selection, and reflection to achieve adaptive change over time.

Learning Communities: Intentionally designed groups that are actively engaged in learning with and from each other.

Cognitive Constructivism: Knowledge systems of cognitive structures are actively constructed by learners based on pre-existing cognitive structures.

Advising: The process of giving information or knowledge by an expert to a person wishing to have input on an issue.

Meta-Cognition: Awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.

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