7 Learning Goal Themes Commonly Found in a Residential Curriculum

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Cascading from an educational priority are the broad goals of a curriculum. The goals of a curriculum are the main categories and statements of the educational components of the learning program. A typical residential curriculum includes 3-6 goals which are accompanied by narratives providing further detail. These goals, in turn, guide the development of learning outcomes and strategies.

Below you will find examples of different learning goals from a number of institutions. As with the previous post on educational priority statements, it should be noted that these were collected through a public web search and compiled here for easy reference. Because of the nature of the web, these goals may not be the current ones employed by the colleges and universities listed. Furthermore, the full narratives describing some of the goals may not be present. Their accuracy, however, is less important than their ability to provide examples of different ways institutions have crafted their learning goals. For many schools, learning goals are revised over time. This is particularly common within the first few years of implementation as a curriculum becomes more sophisticated and stabilizes over time.

Doing some quick coding for concepts and their frequencies in the learning goals presented below, the following are the most commonly recurring themes in residential curriculum goal statements. Caveat: The sample is one of convenience and many of the themes represent categories that could entail a number of collapsed concepts. Nevertheless, the following can provide a guide for the types of themes that are common to many residential curricula.

12

Self Knowledge and Identity

10

Community Engagement and Responsibility

8

Citizenship (Local, National, Global)

7

Interpersonal Relationships

6

Cultural Competence

5

Academic Excellence

4

Social Responsibility

3 – Wellness, 2 – Career Development, 2 – Civility, 2 – Critical Thinking, 2 – Self Sufficiency/Life Skills, 1 – University Success/Traditions

Looking at the emergent themes, it is not surprising to find inter- and intra-personal goals making their way to the top of the list. As an out-of-classroom environment, residence halls are often in the best position to influence these types of outcomes. Marcia Baxter Magolda’s theory of self authorship is also often used as a theoretical base for many residential curriculum implementations. Self authorship entails self and relational development alongside cognitive development. Cognitive development was not as present in many of the learning goals, however academic skills (such as study habits, academic discussions, and cultivating a life of the mind) were.

Global contexts, be it through civic engagement or multicultural competence, could also frequently be found embedded in a number of the goal statements. On occasion these concepts also stood alone as separate goal areas in and of themselves. Concepts of social justice, although present, were often not explicitly stated. This is likely because social justice can have political belief implications. Curricula were structured to encourage diversity of thought why also promoting values of civic engagement.

When drafting (or revising) the learning goals of your curriculum, the following should help in providing guidance on how to structure your own learning objectives. They are presented here, in their raw form, as found on the Web, and without commentary as to quality or suggested areas of improvement. Nevertheless these goal statements represent a starting point for those beginning their journey and a benchmark for others looking to hone their curriculum.

Key Questions

  • What common themes resonate with your learning program?
  • What focal areas are most important to the students at your institution?
  • How can you tie these goals to your educational priority and subsequent educational outcomes?

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Examples of Learning Goals


Indiana Sate University

  • Academic Success – Academically successful students constantly build upon their skill sets and knowledge base, utilize resources, and actively engage in the learning process. Through setting attainable goals and developing critical thinking skills, students will be successful.
  • Self-Awareness – Self-aware students are able to pull from past experiences to help define who they are and how their actions affect others in their environment. Using their skills, they will build confidence and grow as an individual.
  • Social Responsibility – Socially responsible students consciously make decisions that will positively impact their community members and environment. They demonstrate character by creating and maintaining an inclusive atmosphere for generations to come.

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Macalester College

Each student will understand:

  1. the multiple dimensions of individual and social group identities and how they affect interactions with others.
  2. the powerful roles and responsibilities of an individual in a community.
  3. how to build and sustain relationships.
  4. how to communicate across difference.
  5. how privilege and oppression exist and function in societies
  6. the responsibility of citizens to work towards more just and equitable societies.
  7. how to be an actively engaged citizen of local, national, and global societies.

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Miami University

  • Academic Success
  • Cultural Competency
  • Effective Community Engagement
  • Intrapersonal Development

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Montclair State University

  • Well-Being
  • Identity
  • Inclusive Communities
  • Take Action
  • Global Context

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Philadelphia University

  • Develop a greater knowledge of self through the exploration of personal identity.
  • Develop a greater understanding of others to thrive in diverse environments.
  • Express values and opinions as a means for engaging in the community with civility.
  • Evaluate situations to arrive at an informed decision.

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Saint Louis University

  • Community Responsibility – An engaged and active community member understands the impact one has on community development. From the relationships with peers, engagement with staff and respect for the physical space, residents have an obligation to intentionally shape and approach community development. Residents will be given the opportunity to co-construct a positive community rooted in personal responsibility.
  • Understanding of Self and Others – To be an inclusive and transformative member of the residential community, members must reflect and understand dimensions of one’s own identity. Members should be able to participate in healthy dialogue and conversations about social identities, values, and beliefs. Additionally, community members need to demonstrate a respect for others lens or experience, willingness to understand and ability to view multiple perspectives.
  • Academic and Intellectual Capacities – As a member of the residential community, the desire is for each person to continue to cultivate ones own academic and intellectual capabilities. Members should be able to participate in engaged intellectual conversations with peers to further advance ones knowledge and skill to transform society. Each member needs to demonstrate respect for and investment in an academic environment. Additionally, members are expected to connect learning inside and outside of the classroom to demonstrate holistic learning.

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San Jose State University

  • Residents will explore and continually develop SELF
  • Residents will demonstrate a responsibility to their SURROUNDINGS
  • Residents will identify and actively prepare for their next STEPS

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

  • Practical Competence: Students will acquire knowledge and skills that will enable them to be self-sufficient and capable of solving everyday problems.
  • Civility: Students will interact compassionately with the world around them while gaining an understanding of and appreciation for cultural and human differences.
  • Social Responsibility: Students will articulate and demonstrate the duty to act for the benefit of society and the environment.
  • Global Awareness: Students will articulate and celebrate the similarities and differences of individuals, groups, and societies.

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Texas A&M University Galveston

  • Academic Excellence: Environment that supports and enhances class attendance, access to academic resources, facilitates tutoring and faculty interaction. These priorities along with other experiences will foster the development of academic interests.
  • Career Preparation: Students will discern the opportunities and experiences that will directly correlate to skills that when capatilized upon will make them more marketable and successful in the workplace.
  • Global Citizenship: Through intentional activities and experience students will recognize, honor and advocate the needs, ideas, thoughts and values of others by appreciating and understanding that their differences are a strength.
  • Self Development: Through targeted experiences, challenges and reflection, students will be more proficient in identifying and verbalizing their needs, ideas, thoughts and values. They will also have keen understanding of the impact of their actions on others.

University of Dayton

  • Authorship – You will engage others to identify personal values and spiritual identity, demonstrate respect for and appreciation of others’ perspectives, recognize how your behavior impacts others and provide leadership that enhances the dignity and respect of individuals.
  • Interculturalism – You will develop and demonstrate an understanding of your own identity and will value other cultures through learning about their history, beliefs, faith, languages and/or practices to formulate mutual understanding within your living environment.
  • Community Living – You will develop the ability to live in a community that prioritizes the common good over individual wants or desires. You will demonstrate healthful living and responsibility through active participation in the planning of and adherence to community standards, promotion of the safety and security of the community, demonstration of pride in your living environment and respectful confrontation of behaviors that threaten the community’s well-being.

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The University of Kansas

  • Responsibility – Students living in KU Student Housing will be able to demonstrate personal responsibility for themselves and their actions. They will participate in self-advocacy, make healthy decisions surrounding alcohol and other drugs, and demonstrate academic success skills.
  • Global community – By living in KU Student Housing, students will be able to connect to the ever-changing global community, value human diversity, and connect to the KU community and beyond.
  • Community – By living in KU Student Housing, students will be able to communicate through conflict and will gain an awareness that their actions will affect others.

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University of Mary Washington

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Community Responsibility
  • Global Responsibility

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University of South Florida

  • Wellness – Pursuing of the development of the whole person, including physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Engaging in communication skills that promote meaningful relationships and ownership of community.
  • Academic Engagement – Taking responsibility for one’s own learning by identifying and utilizing resources that contribute to one’s educational experience, goals, and campus engagement.
  • Global Citizenship – Developing personal awareness to guide cross-cultural interactions and a sense of responsibility to affect positive change with regard to local and global communities.

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University of Tennessee Chattanooga

  • Personal Development
  • Community Engagement
  • Diversity and Multicultural Competence

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York University

  • Identity and Esteem – Living in York University Residences will encourage students to walk along a path of self discovery, challenge them to view life from many different perspectives, and work collaboratively to develop a sense of pride in themselves, their Residence, their College and York University.
  • University Success and Traditions – By living in Residence at York University, students will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities allowing them to become familiar with Residence and Campus Life.  Students will gain a better sense of the resources available, where to seek support, and how to become more involved, engaged and successful in their University experience.
  • Life and Living Skills – York University Residence Life will provide students with learning opportunities and resources in areas such as time management, stress management, personal safety, financial management, life skills and healthy living.  Students will develop skills and attributes which will lead to personal development, self-advocacy, resiliency and independence.
  • Empathy and Interdependence – By living in residence, students will understand what it means to live as part of a community, their role within that community, and the impact of their decisions on themselves and others.  Life in residence will prepare students to communicate with others across areas of difference by seeking new perspectives and challenging their own assumptions.  Awareness of one’s social environment and role within it, as well as the need to seek new view points and make a difference are important to achieving this.
  • Mutual Rights and Responsibilities – Living in Residence at York University will engage students in the development of an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as residents, students and members of society.  Creating a safe space to dialogue about societal inequities, valuing and celebrating differences, social justice and global impact will lead to the development of mutual understanding, respect and ethical and just actions.

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Roompact-(simple_icon_blue)This post originally appeared on the Roompact On Duty Blog. Roompact is the creator of residential education software for colleges and universities that allows housing and residence life programs to track their educational efforts and make their administrative work more efficient. As the Director of Curriculum, Training, and Research for Roompact, I frequently contribute to the blog and occasionally cross-post my articles here.

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