Key Objectives For Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approach Facilitation Guides

A key component of building out your student life curriculum is the creation of facilitation guides. Facilitation guides (sometimes referred to as lesson plans) are detailed plans that provide all of the information necessary so that anyone with the appropriate level of training and skills could execute the planned strategy. Beyond just the execution of the strategy, facilitation guides also serve a number of important objectives related to your curriculum development. They are living documents that staff can use to enhance and improve their practice over time.

What makes up a facilitation guide?

There are a number of ways of structuring a facilitation guide. How you design them may depend on the intended facilitators. For example, if the guide is intended for student staff or leaders, you may design it differently than if it is for professional staff. If multiple staff may execute the strategy, it may be different than if it is executed solo. Furthermore, if the experience is a one-off event, it may look different from a guide for an ongoing series, or a 1-on-1 coaching session, or a student conduct conference. This article includes some of the basics that you’ll find on most facilitation guides.

Objectives for Facilitation Guides

There are a number of reasons why facilitation guides are a key component of the curricular approach process. The main purpose of the guides is to:

  1. Connect the learning experience described in the facilitation guide to the overall goals and outcomes of your curriculum, allowing you to:
    • Identify gaps and overlap in your overall curriculum and educational plan.
    • Connect strategy assessments to measures of your overall curriculum goal and outcome assessment.
  2. Ensure the learning experience described in the facilitation guide is assessed, allowing you to:
    • Determine the effectiveness of the experience.
    • Improve the experience year-over-year to enhance learning.
  3. Document the logistics the experience, allowing you to:
    • Improve efficiency year-over-year with better executed planning.
    • Provide continuity through staff change by having a documented plan for executing the experience.

Connection to Overall Curriculum Goals and Outcomes

Take a look at the goals and outcomes of your overall curriculum. Which of those goals and outcomes are addressed in this learning experience you are designing? By making this connection, you can articulate which goals and outcomes your experience is targeting.

These connections can also help you identify gaps and overlap and in your overall curriculum. Perhaps you find that you have 100 experiences designed that reach towards one outcome of your curriculum and only 10 that address another outcome. Although numbers only tell part of the story (the intensity and reach of the experience may also matter), this may reveal that you need to put more effort into addressing one of your curriculum outcomes. Or, alternatively, it may make you question whether the outcome is even necessary in your curriculum at all or if it could be collapsed into another outcome. This is the type of activity you would engage in through a review process.

Making the connection to your overall curriculum aims will also help you with assessment. When it comes time to write an annual report, you will know all of the learning experiences you provide that address each of your goals and outcomes. Furthermore, you can connect the assessment in those experiences back to the overall goals and outcomes allowing you to better tell your story.

Strategy Level Outcomes & Related Assessment

Each of your facilitation guides should include strategy-level outcomes. These are the outcomes for that specific experience. They should be narrow and highly measurable. For example, if you are designing a facilitation guide for an intramural sports program, some of your outcomes may be:

  • Participants will be able to make at least one personal connection with another player.
  • Participants will be able to demonstrate the ability to be a team player.
  • Participants will be able to improve their physical wellness.

After defining these outcomes, you will want your facilitation guide to also include how you’re going to assess these outcomes. This assessment could be done during the course of the activity, such as through a verbal check for understanding, or as a post assessment through a survey, quiz, or a reflection experience. When designing these assessments, you may find that you need to define your terms or revise your outcomes (ex. What does it mean to demonstrate the ability to be a “team player?” OR “Can you be more specific than “physical wellness?”). The facilitation guide should include what these assessments are, including their questions, if applicable. Each outcome identified should be connected to an assessment.

Once you define these outcomes, and tie them to assessments, the data you collect during and after an experience can be used to improve your practice. If participants didn’t demonstrate learning related to an outcome, maybe you need to change your guide for the future, or maybe the outcome itself needs to be revised. By documenting, repeating, and iterating your facilitation guides in light of the data you collect, you can improve your practice over time. This is similar to what teachers may do when they write and improve their lesson plans each time they teach the lesson.

Logistics and Instructions

The final key objective for facilitation guides is to document the planning and logistics process for the learning experience. This could include prep work, deadlines for completion, supplies that need to be procured, presentation slides, and a step-by-step walk through of the learning experience. By documenting these details you can improve your efficiency year-over-year by adjusting your planning. You can also ensure consistency if multiple staff members may be executing the experience and even when staff members may leave or join your organization. Documenting these details can save you time through detailed planning and allow you to improve the execution of the experience.

Reviewing Your Facilitation Guides

Once you complete your facilitation guide first drafts, you will want to evaluate them to ensure they’re meeting the needs of your curriculum. These needs could include the facilitation guides’ structure (are you capturing all of the information necessary?) and content (is the actual experience itself well designed and could it be improved to enhance the outcomes for students?).

The following rubric is one that you could use to evaluate your facilitation guides. If you are writing this as a department or division, you may want to have a mini-retreat where departments or staff members swap and rotate facilitation guides and provide feedback for improvement. This can also be incorporated into a regular review process. You may wish to do it semi-annually and further look for overlap, and opportunities for synergies, collaboration, and sequencing.

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