Residential Curriculum Element #7: Learning is Scaffolded and Sequenced To Follow Time-Based Development

Learning does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place in time and space. A well-designed curriculum recognizes that learning is most often a cumulative process. Individuals learn and grow over time. Sometimes they regress and sometimes they make large leaps forward, but the broad arc of learning is progressive over time.

To this end, designing a curriculum for student learning requires that one scaffold and sequence learning opportunities. “Sequencing” learning objectives requires one to align objectives through time such that each successive outcome builds off of the last. This sequencing occurs from year to year, but it also occurs within the year, from month to month. “Scaffolding” a curriculum ensures that learning that is expected to take place is developmentally appropriate and takes place with an optimal balance of challenge and support—“stretching” students towards their next level of development.


The following is an example of how a learning objective can be sequenced as a student moves through their college experience.  You will notice that many of the verbs and words used follow Bloom’s Taxonomy–successively building from lower-level to higher-level thinking skills. They also reflect a deepening of developmental capacity as a student reaches towards graduation.

Students will develop skills for success in study, time management, and academic pursuits.

First Year Second Year Third/Fourth Year
Students will develop effective study and time management habits to be successful in daily academic life. Students will differentiate the needs of to successfully prioritize and complete tasks. Students will apply study, time management, and organizational skills dependent on the context of the task. Students will engage in a cycle of continued evaluation of study, time management, and organizational skills to identify areas of improvement and develop new or revised approaches to engage increasingly complex tasks.
Blooms Taxonomy Visual

The need to scaffold and sequence learning objectives is one of the reasons why developing a residential curriculum can seem so daunting. It requires careful attention to the learning process and a deep knowledge of what students need to learn, when they need to learn it, and what is developmentally appropriate at a given time. For this reason, many institutions choose to start with their first year students in their first year and slowly build their curriculum over time. In many ways, this phased approach mirrors the way our own students learn. Through time, a curriculum can be honed, applied, and created in such a way that it becomes more sophisticated and responsive.

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Key Questions:

  • What are your live on requirements? What years in a students educational journey should you focus on?
  • How are your residence hall assignments structured? Are students clustered by class year?
  • What are the key developmental moments throughout a student’s college experience and when do these typically take place?

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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