Residential Curriculum & Curricular Approaches

Welcome to! A “residential curriculum” is a particular approach to designing and delivering intentional learning opportunities for college and university students.  Developed since 2005, this approach has spawned its own Institute and has been replicated and modified in various forms at campuses across the country, and even the word.  Although arising out of residence life, this model is flexible and has been adopted by entire students affairs divisions. The Institute on the Curricular Approach is a premier professional development offered by ACPA and the only event that provides comprehensive training on the approach.

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

The residential curriculum model, currently referenced as the curricular approach, was born out of original work created at the University of Delaware and cultivated as an in-person professional development event/Institute by ACPA. Over the years, ACPA Institute faculty have continued to develop and refine the curricular approach and its components for the Institute.  As a result, the intellectual property rights for the residential curriculum model, curricular approach, and related Institutes belongs to ACPA and to the University of Delaware. It is expected that individuals and institutions not reproduce or re-purpose any content from the Institute in whole or in part, whether for profit or not, without the advance, express written permission of ACPA-College Student Educators International. If additional permissions are needed for intellectual property, ACPA will consult with the University of Delaware and/or Institute faculty as appropriate.


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 faculty member for a number of years and have been a part of its refinement and development. As a result, I have permission from ACPA to present this material on campus workshops and professional development sessions.

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.


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).


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.

A Formal Rationale for a Residential Curriculum or Curricular Approach

Curriculum Basics and Overview

Divisional Curriculum

Beginning Your Journey

The Ten Elements of a Curriculum

Determining Your Objectives

Educational Priority

Goals and Narratives


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:


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, 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, 2022) *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 Alabama at Birmingham (2022)
  • 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, 2022)
  • 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, 2022 *Divisional)
  • University of South Carolina (2013, 2015, 2016)
  • University of South Florida (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020)
  • University of St. Thomas (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022) *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.