Student and academic advisor meet in a one-on-one session.

Recently, a study conducted by David B. Spight, Director of Undergraduate Undeclared Advising at UC Irvine, was published in the latest volume of NACADA Review: Academic Advising Praxis and Perspectives. Written in collaboration with Deirdre Mooney, Academic Advisor for Exploratory Students in the Student Success Centre at the University of Calgary, and Rachael Orr, Interim Director for Student Success Initiatives at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the study conducts a qualitative historiography of existing research on undecided/exploratory students published between 1950 and 2022. 

Tracing the evolution of the research, the study notes changes in the background of the researchers examining undecided/exploratory students as well as changes in the purpose of the research. The study concludes:

“[T]he research has shifted from understanding undecidedness as a psychological problem requiring counseling to describing it as a typical component of the postsecondary journey, which requires support from the wide network of institutional professionals contributing to the educational experience of undecided/exploratory students.”

The study also identifies the lack of consistent definitions when it comes to describing undecided/exploratory students as a methodological challenge. Additionally, the study notes that the available research on undecided/exploratory students is limited and outdated. Both of these factors can create challenges for present-day academic advisors and support staff, as they may be forced to rely on outdated scholarship when it comes to assessing or designing programming.

As a “call to action for academic advising practitioners, scholars, administrators, and higher education leaders to avoid reinventing the wheel regarding undecided students,” the study concludes by discussing the implications for future research and as well as practice in the student advising space. 

To learn more about the study and its findings, read “A Historiographic Review of the Research on Undecided Students” on the NACADA website. Visit the UCI Undergraduate/Undeclared Advising Program website for more information on undecided/exploratory students at UC Irvine.