3 Res Life Quick Tips for Starting a Residential Curriculum

Roompact’s “Res Life Quick Tips” series highlights ideas and suggestions you can utilize in your residence life and education practice. Take a look through our past quick tips.

Many schools are transitioning to a residential curriculum or curricular approach to their work. For those starting on this journey, however, it can usually be difficult to know where to start. To begin, orient yourself to a residential curriculum through the resources Roompact has curated at www.curricularapproach.com. Once you have a baseline understanding, the following are three tips to help you get started on implementing it on your campus.


1. Seek out expertise.

It’s incredibly hard to begin your journey towards a residential curriculum if you don’t access expertise in its design. The reason for this is that a curricular approach is a significant change in your practice. In order to break yourself of old habits and engage in new ways of thinking, you’ll need to draw on some of the experts. Having a representative or team attend ACPA’s Institute on the Curricular Approach should be your first step. As a second, or concurrent step, you’ll likely want to engage an external consultant to help your entire department get up to speed. Although it may be tempting to read up on the approach and attempt the transition without these steps, it often causes one to miss important features and feedback an expert can provide.


2. Be ready for paradigmatic change.

Moving to a curricular approach is not just a tweak to your practice. Instead, it involves paradigmatic change–a change in the assumptions and basic structures about how you approach your work. When you get ready for your journey, set realistic exceptions. This process will take time. In many cases it will be a few years before you feel like your curriculum has truly established itself. Invest in staff member professional development and make sure you keep your curricular efforts on the forefront of your agenda at all times.

Take a look at this example timeline as a planning document to get a sense of the commitment you need to make.


3. Have the right staff members in the right chairs.

In order for a curriculum to be successful, it requires that staff members be ready for change and be willing to rethink their practice. It also requires them to look at their work through an educator’s lens. To help seed the ground for a curriculum, consider holding a staff retreat, offering regular professional development sessions, or engaging staff members in dialogue sessions across all levels of your department or division. Through training and dialogue, you can prepare your staff for change.

You may also need to rethink your hiring practices to ensure you have staff with the requisite skills to be successful. Even if a candidate does not possess prior curricular experience, you will want to hire staff members who have backgrounds in student development theory, educational practice, and assessment. Getting the right folks around the table, with the right skills, in the right roles are the keys to being successful.


Roompact produces a number of resources related to developing a residential curriculum or curricular approach. Download our books on the topic or visit our curated resources page.

Residential-Curriculum and Curricular Approaches Books

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