The Visual Message Board: A Closer Look at the Learning Advisors’ Identity Construction Process

Karaaslan H. , Güven Yalçın G. , Howard S. L.

Relay Journal, vol.2, no.2, pp.333-358, 2019 (Journal Indexed in ESCI)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 2 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.37237/relay/020209
  • Title of Journal : Relay Journal
  • Page Numbers: pp.333-358


The purpose of life is to discover your gift; the work of life is to develop it; the

meaning of life is to give your gift away.

—David Viscott, Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times, 1993

One’s identity formation process as a learning advisor is inevitably determined or

molded by her or his personality features that stand out. It is often these prominent

characteristics that dominate her or his understanding of and attitude towards the science and

practice of language advising although it is very likely that the formal advisor training

content often helps surface relatively dormant qualities as well. In this respect, the focus in

this visual message board is how nineteen learning advisors from Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt

University School of Foreign Languages (AYBU-SFL) and one from the Middle East

Technical University School of Foreign Languages (METU-SFL) define their advisor selves

with reference to their most prominent characteristics as reflected in their end-of-the-course

thank you and appreciation cards designed by their trainers.

This idea of giving cards each displaying an outstanding feature of individual trainees

upon the completion of advising training was first started by Satoko Kato and Jo Mynard

during their training at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) with the first group

of learning advisor candidates from AYBU-SFL and METU-SFL in 2017. It was made into a

tradition in the following year by the novice trainers Gamze Güven-Yalçın and Stephanie Lea

Howard during their advisor education program in Turkey with a new group of learning

advisor candidates from the same university. In the original KUIS version, each card

contained the Japanese character that corresponded to the specific quality each advisee

displayed as observed by the trainers during their intensive training program over a period of

one week. In the AYBU-SFL version, building on this creative idea but introducing a new

perspective, specific trainee qualities were presented in caterpillar frames representing the

transformation taking place, from caterpillars to butterflies.

In what follows, individual advisors reflect on their advisor selves with reference to

the features expressed in their cards, adopting a descriptive and/or explanatory style. Figure 1

below is a butterfly displaying a collection of individual advisors’/caterpillars’ outstanding

qualities as expressed in descriptive words.

Figure 1. Butterfly Word Cloud Showing the Descriptive Words for the Advisors

As such, it is a privilege to be in a position to write an introduction to these

beautifully crafted cards describing twenty learning advisors' most outstanding qualities that

blend smoothly with their identities as advisors. And it is again an honor to present all these

accompanying reflective pieces in varying genres written by the learning advisors themselves

to celebrate this moment of unification with their advisor selves. Obviously, the contributors

here gathered around this advising candle for no random reason: Are they here to discover

their gifts? Or they have already uncovered their gifts but looking for ways to develop them

or give them away to attain the meaning of their lives? Each card and accompanying caption

reveals a glimpse of an advisor’s, and indeed a person’s, identity.