ResLife Pro-D in a Bag: Get Up To Speed On Residential Curriculum Basics (1 hour)

The “Pro-D in a Bag” series provides all the details you’ll need to create a professional development opportunity for your staff around a given topic. Each facilitation guide outlines free and open source videos to watch, articles to read, quizzes and inventories to complete, and suggested questions for discussion and activities. You can facilitate this as a professional development session or integrate it into a staff meeting. It’s professional development “in a bag.”

We offer 3 tracks of our “Pro-D in a Bag” series:

  1. ResLife Pro-D in a Bag (for Professional Staff)
  2. RA Pro-D in a Bag (for Student Staff)
  3. Roompact Pro-D in a Bag (highlighting software features for users)

Topic: Get Up To Speed On Residential Curriculum Basics

This Pro-D in a Bag provides an overview of the basic tenets of a residential curriculum. It is designed for folks new to a residential curriculum–including new hires at schools that already have a residential curriculum. In short, it is a “crash course” on the basics of residential curriculum. If you are just beginning your journey and are thinking about transitioning to a residential curriculum, view this session instead. If you are looking for a refresher on residential curriculum basics, or if you’re a new staff member at a school using a residential curriculum and you’re looking to learn more about curricular approaches, view this session.

Time: 1 hour
Audience: Professional staff members
– Recall the ten essential elements of a residential curriculum.
– Contrast and name differences between a residential curriculum and other educational/engagement models.
– Discuss strategies for improving staff buy-in to the residential curriculum.
– Discuss strategies for improving assessment efforts related to the residential curriculum.
– Identify resources to engage and learn more about a residential curriculum areas.


If you are using this session as a tool for onboarding new staff to the curricular approach, you may wish to review the suggestions included in the following article for ideas on how to equip staff embers with what they need to be successful.

Before the session:

1. Watch

Watch the following video as a primer on key points about residential curriculum.

2. Read These Chapters

Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches Book Download Now

This book provides a comprehensive view of what a residential curriculum is and how to implement it. Download and read the sections

  • “Introduction” and “History and Elements of a Curriculum” (p. 1-26),
  • “Program Models Versus Residential Curricula” (p. 110-111) from the following book.

Optionally, you can skim and scan the other sections.

3. Choose and Read Two of these Posts

4. Review

Suggested Facilitation:

Begin the session by reviewing your current curriculum and the history of its development. Share any assessment data related to the curriculum and areas where your curriculum shines and where it needs more development.

The following are some prompts for discussion:

  • What have been your past experiences with different models of residential education?
  • What is the difference between a residential curriculum and a program model?
  • How do you understand the ten essential elements and how do they (might they) play out in our curriculum?
    1. “Learning goals are tied to institutional educational priorities such as general education, history, mission, and culture”
    2. “The primary educational aims of a unit are focused, interconnected, and clearly articulated”
    3. “Educational content and strategies are grounded in student development theory and learning pedagogy”
    4. “Educational strategies are determined based on what can best facilitate each student achieving the department learning outcomes”
    5. “Strategies like intentional conversations, community and organizational meetings, service initiatives, social media engagement, and campus events are structured to help achieve the learning outcomes”
    6. “Student leaders and staff members are considered to be facilitators rather than designers of educational strategies”
    7. “Educational content and strategies build upon one another for a coherent plan both across the academic year and the full college career”
    8. “Multiple units with intersecting goals work together to develop educational strategies that complement the student experience and advance the institution’s mission”
    9. “A regular review process (internal and/or external) is developed to get feedback from key partners and experts on content and pedagogy”
    10. “Assessment is focused on student attainment of learning outcomes and the effectiveness of strategies in a cycle of continuous improvement”
  • Do we see any of the ten essential elements in our existing practice?

Share past history of buy-in by various stakeholders and staff as it relates to departmental curricular efforts. Highlight areas of strength and areas for improvement.

  • How can we encourage buy-in from staff at all levels?
  • How can we keep the curriculum from turning into a “check box” mentality focused on completing tasks and keep it focused on student learning?
  • What is the best way to communicate with student staff about their role in a curriculum?

Share past history of assessment as it relates to departmental curricular efforts. Highlight areas of strength and areas for improvement.

  • Have we developed a culture of assessment in the department?
  • What do with do (could we do) with assessment data after we collect it?
    • How do we (could we) share assessment data with all levels of staff? Student Staff? Professionals?
    • Do we use (could we use) assessment data to improve our practice? Or does it sit on a shelf?
  • Do we collect the right data we need?
  • Do we collect more data than we need?
  • Are their tools we need to more efficiently access and utilize our assessment data?

To conclude the session, talk about any action items you can take from the discussion and set up follow-up plans.

Additional Resources To Dive Deeper:

Curriculum Workbook

This workbook provides an overview of residential curriculum and curricular approaches in a more digestible format. It summarizes key points and can be used as a guide if you decide to create your own curriculum.

Curricular Approach to Student Affairs Book

In addition to the above free book, there is also a published book available through various bookstores that overviews curricular approaches and residential curriculum.

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