When conceiving of programmatic efforts, there can be a tendency to focus on the overall number of programs instead of their quality. For example, within residence life, many program models require that staff members must complete x number of events or programs per semester. Relying on an overall number of programs, however, ignores an important variable in the educational equation: frequency. Rather than focus on the total number of programs to be completed, it is perhaps even more important to ensure that programs are evenly spaced throughout the year and occur at the appropriate times. Additionally, understanding how different educational strategies are structured can aid you in selecting the best strategy for the achievement of given outcomes.
Why Frequency Matters
The frequency of educational activities matters because education is a process that occurs over time and is iterative and cumulative. Although the educational process itself isn’t always linear, the general arc of education over someone’s lifetime bends in this direction. When it comes to programming, educational activities on college campuses are often structured as discrete one-time events that are devoid of context.
Additionally, in programming models that leave educational plans up to student staff, there can often be a tendency to promote end-of-the-semester programming “crunches.” These crunches occur when student staff are looking at the overall number of programs they need to complete and recognize that they haven’t fulfilled their requirements (typically due to poor planning).
Perhaps a better approach than setting a goal of an overall number of programs or educational interactions for a semester is to schedule one educational activity or intervention per defined time period (per week, per month, etc.). Changing the goals and requirements in this manner recognizes that frequency of educational contact may be more important (or at least equally as important) as the overall number of educational events and interventions.
Strategy Types and Structures
Given their time-based structures, some strategies may be better suited to different types of learning. For example, ongoing strategies might be better suited towards cumulative learning as they allow for regular periodic learning opportunities. One-time strategies are not as well suited to this type of learning, but may be more appropriate for “just in time” learning objectives. Strategies that are “as needed” mean that not all students will be exposed to these learning opportunities. Thinking about the structure of your strategies is similar to how a classroom teacher may choose between giving a lecture, devising a group project, or having students complete an activity or write a paper. In addition to thinking about how a strategy functions through time, think about whether the learning might be better suited to a one-on-one interaction, a group conversation or activity, or a blend of the two—perhaps with each reinforcing the other.
Rather than seeing programs as one-off events, it is perhaps better to think of them as part of a whole. The whole is the entire educational experience you are attempting to build in the residence halls. The building of a holistic approach to residential education requires pre-planning and sequencing of educational experiences in a scaffolded way.
Developing rubrics for your learning outcomes is one way of starting this scaffolding process. By developing a rubric, one is able to map how student learning may change over time. In developing a rubric, you can identify where your students currently are and where you where you would like them to move to. After identifying this, think about what learning is required “in-between.” This allows you to determine what types of programs (or other educational interactions) will be needed to help students achieve your learning goals. By developing rubrics, you are recognizing that learning takes place over time, not just in discrete chunks.