What is the Residential Curriculum Model? What are Curricular Approaches?

The terms “residential curriculum” or “curricular approach” are used to describe an intentional specifically-structured way of promoting learning in college and university student affairs programs. Borrowing from techniques utilized by classroom-based teachers, the curricular approach to student affairs designs a series of successive learning and engagement opportunities for students that are measurable against defined objectives. Utilizing this intentional process allows an institution to better improve their efforts year-over-year, something not easily accomplished through more traditional ad-hoc methods.

Implemented at the University of Delaware in the early 2000s, the model was first detailed in a 2006 article by Kerr and Tweedy titled, “Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education,” in About Campus magazine. Kerr, Tweedy, Edwards, and Kimmel (2017) followed up on their About Campus article a decade later further refining the notion of a residential curriculum and expanding its applicability as a curricular approach to all of student affairs work. This work was expanded and codified in the book, The Curricular Approach to Student Affairs: A Revolutionary Shift for Learning Beyond the Classroom (Kerr, Edwards, Tweedy, Lichterman, & Knerr, 2020).

Originally focused solely on departments of housing and residence life, this approach led to the establishment of ACPA’s Residential Curriculum Institute (RCI) in 2007.  This has since expanded to entire divisions of student affairs and their related departments, resulting in a re-naming of the Institute to the Institute on the Curricular Approach (ICA). Since then, the curricular approach has become increasingly common and popular at institutions of higher education. Pre-pandemic, the Institute was  drawing over 500 participants a year, with additional registrants on a wait list. 

The curricular approach maintains strong roots in housing and residence life. In his 2015 book, Student Learning in College Residence Halls, Blimling (2015) provided an overview of the curricular approach and related models for designing residential education initiatives. Likewise, ACUHO-I’s Campus Housing Management series (Dunkel & Baumann, 2013) contributed text providing more details about the approach and its application in residence life. As a core feature of many institutions of higher education, residence life remains a critical component of a curricular approach.

Focused research efforts on the curricular approach have included examinations of organizational culture shifts required by the approach (Lichterman, 2016, Kropf, 2020), the impact of curricular efforts on staff members (Stauffer & Kimmel, 2019; Pernotto, 2021) and students (Sanders, 2018, Scheibler, 2021) and their experience of the curriculum. Further targeted research was conducted on how curricular efforts can support under-represented student populations (Williams, et al., 2020).

A residential curriculum or curricular approach should incorporate the following “ten essential elements” of good educational practice (Kerr, Tweedy, Edwards, & Kimmel, 2017):

  1. Directly Connects to the Institutional Mission
  2. Learning Goals and Outcomes Developed and Based in a Defined Educational Priority
  3. Basis in Developmental Theory and Research
  4. Educational Strategies are Developed to Advance Learning Outcomes
  5. Educational Strategies Go Beyond Programmed Events
  6. Student Staff Are Utilized in Roles Appropriate To Their Skill Development
  7. Learning is Scaffolded and Sequenced To Follow Time-Based Development
  8. Key Stakeholders are Identified and Involved
  9. Peer-Review is Accomplished Through an Intentional Process
  10. Assessment Occurs at All Levels: From Educational Priority to Learning Goals and Outcomes

Resources

If you’re looking to connect with others around curriculum, consider joining the Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches Facebook Group or follow the #ACPICA hashtag on Twitter and other platforms.

Consultation

img_1717As a professional I’ve previously implemented a curricular approach at one of my past institutions. I have also served as a Residential Curriculum Institute and Isntitute on the Curricular Approach faculty member for a number of years.

I frequently consult with individual campuses on developing and enhancing their curricula through multi-day workshops and speaking events. I have worked with over 30 different institutions across the country. If you’re interested in bringing me to campus, you can learn more about my speaking and consulting and reach out to me with any interest.

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Resources

Book on Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches:
I’ve been progressively updating the following book on curricular development and residence life and education. This resource on residential curriculum and curricular approaches is available for free and provides you with definitions, instructions, and review materials to aid you in your educational work on campus.

Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches Book Download NowThe following represents some of my blog posts and related content on residential curriculum development. I’ve also included a number of posts and other publications that I have found in my research on the topic.

Curriculum Basics and Overview

Divisional Curriculum

Beginning Your Journey

The Ten Elements of a Curriculum

Determining Your Objectives

Educational Priority

Goals and Narratives

Outcomes

Rubrics and Sequencing

Strategies and Facilitation Guides

Educational Plan and Curricular Review

Assessing Learning

Partnerships, Buy-In, and Organizational Change


The Process of a Curricular Approach

An (Over?) Simplified Explanation of The Curricular Approach/Residential Curriculum Process


Special Topics in Residence Life

Utilizing Restorative Practices in Residence Life Curriculum

Intentional Conversations

Student and Professional Staff


Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approach Q&A Series

Residence Life-Specific Questions

Case Studies

 

Publications on Developing a Residential Curriculum:

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

About Curricular Approaches:

Reference Curricular Approaches:

Contain Sub-Sections on Curricular Approaches:

Doctoral Dissertations on the Curricular Approach:

 

Professional Development Videos:


Institutional Example Videos:

Podcasts

Andrea Guimaraes’s Interview series with:

Dr. Paul Gordon Brown

Dr. Keith Edwards

Dr. Hilary Lichterman

Institute on the Curricular Approach (Residential Curriculum Institute):

2019 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2018 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2017 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3#ACPARCI 2017 by Erin Simpson (PDF)

2016 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2014 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1 (PDF), Day 2 (PDF), Day 3 (PDF), Reflections on the 2014 Residential Curriculum Institute by Nicolas Babarskis

2013 Institute Social Media Recaps: #ACPARCI 2013 Twitter Recap by ebeeler (PDF)

Past Institute Showcase Institutions:

    • American University (2010)
    • Appalachian State University (2017)
    • Carleton University (2017, 2018)
    • Central Michigan University (2017, 2018, 2019)
    • Clemson University (2014, 2019, 2021)
    • Colorado Mesa University (2012, 2013)
    • Concordia College (2021)
    • Dartmouth College (2009)
    • East Tennessee State University (2016)
    • Eastern Kentucky University (2018)
    • Florida International University (2019)
    • Georgia Southern University (2015)
    • Gettysburg College (2010, 2011)
    • Indiana State University (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019)
    • Indiana University Bloomington (2018)
    • Lehigh University (2013, 2014, 2019) *Divisional
    • Macalester College (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016)
    • Messiah College (2011)
    • New York University (2010, 2015)
    • North Carolina State University (2017)
    • North Dakota State University (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) *Divisional
    • Northern Illinois University (2011, 2012)
    • Pennsylvania State University (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
    • Quinnipiac University (2018)
    • Radford University (2018)
    • St. Lawrence University (2012)
    • Saint Louis University (2011, 2012, 2013)
    • San Jose State University (2020)
    • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018)
    • SUNY Brockport (2011, 2013)
    • SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology (2018)
    • SUNY Geneseo (2019) *Divisional
    • SUNY University of Buffalo (2014, 2018, 2019)
    • Syracuse University (2009)
    • Texas A&M University at Galveston (2020) *Divisional
    • Texas State University (2021)
    • The College of New Jersey (2020)
    • University of Central Florida (2016, 2018, 2019)
    • University of Colorado Boulder (2020)
    • University of Connecticut (2017)
    • University of Dayton (2012, 2015)
    • University of Illinois Springfield (2019) *Divisional
    • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2016)
    • University of Iowa (2019)
    • University of Kansas (2018) *Divisional
    • University of Kentucky (2019)
    • University fo Maryland Baltimore County (2019, 2020)
    • University of Massachusetts-Amherst (2017, 2018)
    • University of Minnesota (2010, 2012, 2013)
    • University of Mississippi (2016)
    • University of New Hampshire (2009, 2014, 2016)
    • University of North Carolina School of Arts (2018) *Divisional
    • University of North Carolina Greensboro (2021)
    • University of Oklahoma (2015, 2017, 2018, 2020 *Gender + Equality Center)
    • University of South Carolina (2013, 2015, 2016)
    • University of South Florida (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020)
    • University of St. Thomas (2019, 2020, 2021) *Divisional
    • University of Texas at Austin (2019, 2020)
    • University of Utah (2018, 2019)
    • Virginia Tech (2013, 2014)
    • Wesleyan University (2020)
    • West Chester University (2019) *Divisional
    • Western Washington University (2011, 2012, 2020)
    • Whitman College (2009)
    • Wilfrid Laurier University (2017)
    • American University (2010)
    • Appalachian State University (2017)
    • Carleton University (2017, 2018)
    • Central Michigan University (2017, 2018, 2019)
    • Clemson University (2014, 2019, 2021, 2022)
    • Colorado Mesa University (2012, 2013)
    • Concordia College (2021) *Divisional
    • Dartmouth College (2009)
    • East Tennessee State University (2016)
    • Eastern Kentucky University (2018)
    • Florida International University (2019)
    • Georgia Southern University (2015)
    • Georgia State University (2021)
    • Gettysburg College (2010, 2011)
    • Indiana State University (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019)
    • Indiana University Bloomington (2018)
    • Lehigh University (2013, 2014, 2019) *Divisional
    • Macalester College (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016)
    • Messiah College (2011)
    • New York University (2010, 2015)
    • North Carolina State University (2017)
    • North Dakota State University (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) *Divisional
    • Northern Illinois University (2011, 2012)
    • Pennsylvania State University (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
    • Quinnipiac University (2018)
    • Radford University (2018)
    • St. Lawrence University (2012)
    • Saint Louis University (2011, 2012, 2013)
    • San Jose State University (2020)
    • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018)
    • SUNY Brockport (2011, 2013)
    • SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology (2018)
    • SUNY Geneseo (2019) *Divisional
    • SUNY University of Buffalo (2014, 2018, 2019)
    • Syracuse University (2009)
    • Texas A&M University at Galveston (2020) *Divisional
    • Texas State University (2021)
    • The College of New Jersey (2020)
    • University of Central Florida (2016, 2018, 2019)
    • University of Colorado Boulder (2020)
    • University of Colorado Colorado Springs (2022)
    • University of Connecticut (2017)
    • University of Dayton (2012, 2015)
    • University of Illinois Springfield (2019) *Divisional
    • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2016)
    • University of Iowa (2019)
    • University of Kansas (2018) *Divisional
    • University of Kentucky (2019)
    • University of Maryland Baltimore County (2019, 2020)
    • University of Massachusetts-Amherst (2017, 2018)
    • University of Minnesota (2010, 2012, 2013)
    • University of Mississippi (2016)
    • University of New Hampshire (2009, 2014, 2016)
    • University of North Carolina School of Arts (2018) *Divisional
    • University of North Carolina Greensboro (2021) *Divisional
    • University of Oklahoma (2015, 2017, 2018, 2020 *Gender + Equality Center)
    • University of South Carolina (2013, 2015, 2016)
    • University of South Florida (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020)
    • University of St. Thomas (2019, 2020, 2021) *Divisional
    • University of Texas at Austin (2019, 2020)
    • University of Utah (2018, 2019, 2022)
    • University of Vermont (2021)
    • Virginia Tech (2013, 2014)
    • Wesleyan University (2020)
    • West Chester University (2019) *Divisional
    • Western Washington University (2011, 2012, 2020)
    • Whitman College (2009)
    • Wilfrid Laurier University (2017)​

Schools Referencing A Curriculum:

Although there are many schools implementing curricular approaches to residential and student life, detailed information on these approaches can be difficult to find online. The following is a list of schools that have references to curricular frameworks and/or planning documents (including learning goals and outcomes, strategies, lesson plans, etc.) online. Note that these are of varying quality, and although an institution may list or reference a curricular-type frame work, they may not implement a true approach in practice. The links providing the most detail are listed first. Schools with demonstrated student affairs divisional curricula are noted with an asterisk.

Most useful links:

Additional institutions:

Presentations on Residential Curriculum

The following are presentations on residential curriculum that are publicly available online. The most useful links are in bold.

Student Leader Training and Curricular Approaches:

The following are links providing information on student leader training and curricular approaches including RA training and residential curriculum.

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