3 ResLife Pro Quick Tips for Gaining RA Buy-In for a Residential Curriculum

Roompact’s “Quick Tips” series highlights ideas and suggestions you can put into your practice as either a professional staff or student staff member working in residence life and education. Click to read more from the series.

Transitioning to a curricular approach represents a cultural shift. A department can have well-articulated goals, outcomes, and educational plans, but a residential curriculum will never be successful without the necessary cultural and organizational change that comes along with it. For residence life departments, in particular, this means preparing your student staff members for this shift, involving them in the process, and helping them through the process of change. Here are three tips to help with buy-in:

1. Validate Student Staff Members and Leaders as Knowers.

Student leaders and staff members are integral to the execution of your curriculum. They possess knowledge of current students in a way that administrators can often never fully realize. They are also experts in aspects of peer culture and influence. They can connect with other students, as peers, in ways that administrators cannot. Recognizing this, valuing this, and naming this can help student staff members and leaders see their importance in a curriculum. When discussing curriculum with student staff members and leaders, it is important to highlight these themes, communicate these themes in hiring processes, integrate these themes into training programs, and recognize students for their efforts on a regular basis.

2. Involve Student Staff Members in the Curriculum Development Process.

Given the expertise of student staff members and leaders, it is important to involve them in the curriculum development and review process. Although they may not be the ones explicitly or solely writing the learning outcomes or facilitation guides, they nevertheless have insights and feedback that can make them stronger. Consider using focus groups. Regularly check in on your practice to make sure your theory-to-practice link is sound. Also include staff members in review processes you may have set up to revise and enhance your curricular objectives.

3. Utilize Returning Staff Members as Leaders and Peer Teachers.

Breaking down the teacher-student binary means that we all have a role to play in improving our knowledge and practice with curriculum. To further this, utilize the execution of the curriculum itself as a learning opportunity for student facilitators and staff. Invite students to co-facilitate learning opportunities and reflect on it afterwards. In some ways, this mirrors the curricular process a meta-level, enhancing leaning for the “teachers.”

You can also replicate this strategy during student staff and student leader training. Pair a professional with a returning student when presenting a training session or topic. Utilize direct staff input when constructing a training or leadership session. Re-envisioning student staff and student leader training overall to focus on student roles as teachers and connectors can help set the tone for how your students approach their work with their peers.

BONUS TIP: Share Assessment Data Freely and Transparently.

Gathering assessment data is useless unless it is used and shared. You can stress the importance of assessment with student staff members and leaders by “closing the loop” and showing how the data they collect informs changes to practice. Being open and honest about what went well and what missed the mark encourages a culture that focuses on continuous improvement. This can shift a culture away from an operational “checklist mindset” towards one that is more learning-centric. Sharing this data also helps you to be able to to tell your story and help student staff members and leaders articulate the “why” of a curriculum.

Roompact has a number of resources about residential curriculum that we’ve created and curated. Check out our resource page on the topic.

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