A well known approach to education in the residence halls is the programming model. Typically, a programming model will involve a menu of different categories that structure and guide programmatic efforts. These categories may be based on a wellness wheel, or they may include broader categories such as “social,” “multicultural,” or “educational” programming. To fulfill a programming model’s requirements, a student staff member needs to hold a certain number of programs within each category, each semester.

The problem with this approach, however, is that it inverts the educational process.Tweet This Rather than determining outcomes first, and method of delivery second, it assumes the method of delivery first, and determines the outcomes second. While the individual categories of a programming model can be construed as a form educational goal, the actual outcomes for each program are often set by individual student staff members without regard for making a strong connection between goal and outcome.

When utilizing a learning-based approach, outcomes should drive the educational strategies used.Tweet This By defining an educational priority, determining goals, and setting resident-level outcomes, an educator can determine the most appropriate strategy to utilize to meet their objectives. As will be discussed later (see Element #5), there are many strategies one can use besides just a program or event.

Dart Board Bullseye

Another way to think about it is through the analogy of a dartboard. Rather than throwing a dart and drawing a bullseye around it, one should seek to identify a bullseye and aim to hit it. Defining an educational priority determines the dartboard (curriculum), and defining goals and outcomes determines the bullseye(s) (objectives).Tweet This Setting objectives before planning one’s educational strategies for achieving them provides clarity and allows one to better aim for the ends one seeks to achieve. Furthermore, by defining a bullseye, one is able to more effectively assess whether one was successful in achieving it (see Element #10).

Determining the appropriate learning strategy for an educational objective is a key concept in the development a curriculum in the residence halls. Just as a teacher or faculty member determines what they want to teach before they determine how they will teach it, a residence hall educator should determine what they want students to learn and then how best to help students learn it. Similarly, just as a teacher may employ lectures, group work, discussion, and reading and writing exercises in their curriculum, residence hall educators can rely on a number of strategies to achieve their learning objectives.

Key Questions:

  • What is your dartboard (curriculum) and what are your bullseyes (objectives)?
  • What strategies can you employ as they relate to specific intended outcomes?


Reference: Edwards, K. E., & Gardner, K. (2015, October 19). What is a residential curriculum? [PowerPoint slides]. Plenary session presented at the Residential Curriculum Institute, Indianapolis, IN.

ACPA Residential Curriculum InstituteThis post is a part of a series examining the ten essential elements of a residential curriculum. While these materials may help in providing a broad understanding what a curriculum entails, the ACPA Residential Curriculum Institute goes through step-by-step detail into how to enact these principles in your work. Roompact is a proud sponsor of the Residential Curriculum Institute.

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curricular approaches and residential learning models.