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.
Intentional Conversations are a feature of many residence life and education programs. These conversations are one-on-one meetings between student staff and residents that are guided by a suggested set of questions and prompts. Rather than just an interaction, they are intentional because they are situated to what we know about college students developmental journey through college. When training staff for these conversations, here are three tips to keep in mind…
1. Focus on basic listening and counseling skills.
Listening and counseling skills are the basis to any good intentional conversation program. Hiring for and training for these skills is critical. Make sure you provide opportunities for your staff to learn about and practice these skills throughout the year. Check in on them regularly to debrief how they went.
Student staff members will be able to:
- Describe active listening skills, interpersonal skills, and their components.
- Model active listening and interpersonal skills.
- Engage in Intentional Conversations that are genuine, contextualized to a student, and address learning outcomes and topics suggested for the conversation.
- Evaluate when a conversation or situation requires a referral to a supervisor or trained professional.
2. Help staff go into conversations with a purpose, but encourage adaptability.
The reason they’re called intentional conversations and not just conversations is that they should be undertaken with a goal in mind. Within a curricular approach, these conversations are driven by the learning objectives you’ve identified for residents. They can also be driven by the time of year and where a resident may be in their journey during college.
To ensure this intentionality, it’s not uncommon to provide topics for student staff members for focus on for specific conversations. Although these prompts should guide the conversation, they should never be followed robotically. Instead, encourage staff members to follow the conversation where the resident leads them. They should be authentic and helpful to the student, while also keeping in mind the goals.
3. Communicate your goals for the conversations.
Be forthcoming with what these conversations are and what they’re trying to accomplish. In many ways, these conversations are exactly what we would expect from any peer mentorship program. Changing your messaging and communications about the role of the RA and their relationship to students can help. Through transparent and clear communication, you can likely get better engagement as a result.
Intentional conversations can:
- Provide scaffolded and sequenced learning experiences for students according to their developmental level and their stage in the college journey.
- Customize student learning to the student, allowing the student to guide what they want to learn and how they can achieve it.
- Allow residents to practice the development of interpersonal relationships, advocacy for needs, goal setting, and other psychosocial skills.
- Provide more purposeful, meaningful, and targeted resources and supports, helping residents navigate college life more efficiently and adeptly.
One of the main ways schools utilize Roompact is in tracking their intentional conversations and student engagement. Check out our series of posts on the topic.