Residential Curriculum Element #3: Basis in Developmental Theory and Research

Student affairs professionals are educators. College student educators. Although we may not always believe we are, or maybe we are not always perceived to be, we are educators. Education and development is at the core of what we do and what we are trained in.

To this end, curriculums should be based in the latest in developmental research and learning theory. This is one of the reasons why the enactment of residential curriculum often requires the presence of Masters-level trained professionals. In order to be effective educators, staff must be equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills in order to be successful.

Stack of Books

Residential education and student affairs work is supported by a diverse and interdisciplinary knowledge base. Drawing from psychology, sociology, philosophy, education, and business, there are a number of theories and research available that informs our work. Enacting a curriculum requires individuals that are well versed in this literature and in these conversations.

When developing a residential curriculum, in particular, there are a number of foundational documents and lines of research that can be particularly useful. These include:

Professional Statements and Standards:

Research and Theory related to:

Because research and scholarship are critically important to the success of a curriculum, the ongoing professional development and engagement of staff is also critically important. This is one of the reasons why Residential Curriculum Institute participants return year after year. They recognize that a curriculum requires constant education, training, and enculturation of all staff members. Attending conferences, reading journals, engaging in brown bag lunch discussions, and inviting speakers and consultants to campus can all help ensure that your curriculum is successful. Investing in a curriculum means investing in your staff.

Key Questions:

  • Do you view yourself as an educator? How do you demonstrate that you are an educator?
  • What important research and theories will inform your curriculum?
  • How might your own curriculum lead to further research?

Reference: Kerr, K. G., Tweedy, J., Edwards, K. E., & Kimmel, D. (2017, March-April). Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom. About Campus, 22(1), 22-31. doi:10.1002/abc.21279

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