RA Training for Residential Curriculum: Resources and Examples

The following is part of a series of blog posts addressing a number of areas related to developing a training program for RAs and student staff members working within a residential curriculum model.  Posts included in this series are:

The following are some further topics, resources, and examples you may want to explore when re-envisioning your RA training programs under a curricular approach. Because RA training tends to be an internally-focused event, and furthermore because examples only provide the after-product of training development and rarely provide insight into the philosophies and pedagogies that lead to their development, these examples can sometimes be hard to find online. For examples of how to lead an RA training renovation process, take a look at the following presentation from Lehigh University where they described their change process.

Competency-Based Training

Many institutions working towards curriculum may find it useful to explore competency-based training programs. By focusing on the skills necessary to be successful in their jobs, an RA training program can be more easily constructed with clear objectives and also benefit RAs who can better understand and articulate the skills they gain on the job. Furthermore, by identifying competencies, you can also align your hiring processes to seek out candidates with advanced skills in the most important areas for success. Rothwell and Garber (2010) describe “competency” and “competency-based training” as follows:

“The term competency refers to any characteristics of an individual performer that lead to acceptable or outstanding performance. Competencies may include technical skills, level of motivation, personality traits, awareness of bodies of knowledge, or just about anything else that can assist in producing results.” (p. 1-2)

“Competency-based training is intended to help individuals acquire or build the necessary characteristics to match the skills of good or exceptional performers.” (p. 2)

If you’re looking for competency ideas specifically related to the RA position, Bliming (2015, p. 169-176) suggests the following competencies for a competency-based RA training program:

  • Helping Skills
  • Crisis Management Skills
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Multicultural Skills
  • Administrative Skills
  • Resource Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Educational Skills
  • Relationship Skills
  • Technology Skills
  • Student Skills

Utilizing Flipped Classroom Models and Technologically Enhanced Instruction

As many institutions have evolved their training programs , they have looked to technology to enhance instruction and to better utilize (and even reduce) the amount of time spent in in-person training. Utilizing course management systems, developing online modules, and using simple techniques such as incorporating pre-reading can all enhance training if executed well. If you’re looking for ideas, take a look at the Online Learning Consortium’s website and resources. A related concept in this space is to explore flipped classroom models. Flipped classrooms typically involve students (or resident assistants in our example) to work on more knowledge-based tasks outside the training room, while reserving in-person training time for more experiential and applied forms of learning. For example, an RA may watch a pre-recorded lecture on counseling skills prior to in-person training where they may apply these through guided exercises or cases studies with peers. For an excellent example of how to incorporate elements of flipped classrooms and online modules specifically into RA training, the following example form Texas State University is great primer.

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Example Outcomes

Providing an example schedule for an RA training reconceived under a curricular approach is difficult to demonstrate in practice. Similar to how a residential curriculum should be contextualized to an institution, an RA training curriculum should also be contextualized to the institution, and unique departmental and residence hall structures. It may be useful, however, to see some examples of the types of sessions you may uniquely develop if you are embarking on a curricular approach. The following outcomes can help get you started:

Understanding the University

  • Identify the university’s strategic plan objectives, goals, and general education requirements.
  • Identify connections between the university and departmental goals.

Knowing Our Students

  • Name one assumption or myth about our students and the data that supports it.
  • Name one demographic about the our student population and its percentage makeup of the student body.
  • Explain how knowledge about our students can be incorporated into the execution of strategies and facilitation guides.

Understanding our Curriculum

  • Describe the curricular evolution of residential education at our campus.
  • Name the learning goals of our curriculum.
  • Explain the RA role within the curriculum.
  • Explain how to use facilitator guides and RA opportunities for personalization.

Assessment Efforts

  • Explain what assessment data the department collects and how it is used for improvement.
  • Name 3 goals the department has set for improvement.
  • Describe how you can contribute to department goals and improvement.

Student Development Theory

  • Describe the student development theory/theories that support the curriculum.
  • Apply student development theory to student situations.

Helping Skills

  • List three different skills related to effectively listening.
  • Demonstrate effective strategies for communicating with residents.


  • Know techniques for addressing confrontational students.
  • Understand the confrontation model.
  • Articulate the value of assertive behavior versus aggression or passive behavior.


  • Explain the differences between mediation, arbitration and conflict coaching.
  • Identify two examples in which mediation would be the preferred method to solve the problem.

Diverse Communities

  • Describe two identity or diversity related theories.
  • Summarize how assumptions and expectations about difference have an impact on the residence hall community.
  • Identify four core concepts related to communication and language in diverse communities.
  • Develop three strategies to incorporate inclusivity and multicultural awareness in learning opportunities and community standards.

Intentional Conversations

  • Recognize the importance of one on one resident/RA interactions.
  • Describe strategies to promote open communication between residents and RAs.
  • Identify concerning behavior which should be reported to an RD.

What we you add to our list?

Blimling, G. S. (2015). Student learning in college residence halls: What works, what doesn’t, and why. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rothwell, W. J., & Graber, J. M. (2010). Competency-based training basics: A complete how-to guide to help you. ASTD Press: East Peoria, IL.

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