Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches

These resources are a part of our ongoing efforts to share research and insights into developing a residential curriculum. While these materials may help in providing a broad understanding what a curriculum entails, the ACPA Institute on the Curricular Approach, ICA, (formerly the Residential Curriculum Institute, RCI) goes through step-by-step detail into how to enact these principles in your work. Our staff member, Paul Gordon Brown, also offers workshops and other consultative services related to a residential curriculum. Roompact is a proud sponsor of the Institute on the Curricular Approach and is its official software partner.

The residential curriculum model, currently referenced as the curricular approach, was born out of original work created at the University of Delaware and cultivated as an in-person professional development event/Institute by ACPA. Over the years, ACPA Institute faculty have continued to develop and refine the curricular approach and its components for the Institute.  As a result, the intellectual property rights for the residential curriculum model, curricular approach, and related Institutes belongs to ACPA and to the University of Delaware. It is expected that individuals and institutions not reproduce or re-purpose any content from the Institute in whole or in part, whether for profit or not, without the advance, express written permission of ACPA-College Student Educators International. If additional permissions are needed for intellectual property, ACPA will consult with the University of Delaware and/or Institute faculty as appropriate.

Topical Resource Pages

Our “Topics” resource pages curate content (articles, Reseach, videos, etc.) on important subjects in Residence Life and college student housing. Explore content on residential curriculum, restorative practices, living learning communities, RA training and selection, roommate agreements, and more!

What is a Residential Curriculum?

What is a Curricular Approach to Student Affairs?

The terms “residential curriculum” or “curricular approach” are used to describe an intentional specifically-structured way of promoting learning in college and university student affairs programs. Borrowing from techniques utilized by classroom-based teachers, the curricular approach to student affairs designs a series of successive learning and engagement opportunities for students that are measurable against defined objectives. Utilizing this intentional process allows an institution to better improve their efforts year-over-year, something not easily accomplished through more traditional ad-hoc methods.

Implemented at the University of Delaware in the early 2000s, the model was first detailed in a 2006 article by Kerr and Tweedy titled, “Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education,” in About Campus magazine. Kerr, Tweedy, Edwards, and Kimmel (2017) followed up on their About Campus article a decade later further refining the notion of a residential curriculum and expanding its applicability as a curricular approach to all of student affairs work. This work was expanded and codified in the book, The Curricular Approach to Student Affairs: A Revolutionary Shift for Learning Beyond the Classroom (Kerr, Edwards, Tweedy, Lichterman, & Knerr, 2020).

Originally focused solely on departments of housing and residence life, this approach led to the establishment of ACPA’s Residential Curriculum Institute (RCI) in 2007.  This has since expanded to entire divisions of student affairs and their related departments, resulting in a re-naming of the Institute to the Institute on the Curricular Approach (ICA). Since then, the curricular approach has become increasingly common and popular at institutions of higher education. Pre-pandemic, the Institute was  drawing over 500 participants a year, with additional registrants on a wait list. 

The curricular approach maintains strong roots in housing and residence life. In his 2015 book, Student Learning in College Residence Halls, Blimling (2015) provided an overview of the curricular approach and related models for designing residential education initiatives. Likewise, ACUHO-I’s Campus Housing Management series (Dunkel & Baumann, 2013) contributed text providing more details about the approach and its application in residence life. As a core feature of many institutions of higher education, residence life remains a critical component of a curricular approach.

Focused research efforts on the curricular approach have included examinations of organizational culture shifts required by the approach (Lichterman, 2016, Kropf, 2020), the impact of curricular efforts on staff members (Stauffer & Kimmel, 2019; Pernotto, 2021) and students (Sanders, 2018, Scheibler, 2021) and their experience of the curriculum. Further targeted research was conducted on how curricular efforts can support under-represented student populations (Williams, et al., 2020).

eBooks on Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches:

Roompact Books

Roompact offers a number of eBooks related to curricular development and residence life and education. Written by Dr. Paul Gordon Brown, and sponsored by Roompact, we make these freely available to everyone and encourage folks to utilize and share these widely. The following eBooks on residential curriculum and curricular approaches provide you with definitions, instructions, and review materials to aid you in your educational work on campus.


A Formal Rationale for a Residential Curriculum or Curricular Approach

Curriculum Basics and Overview

Divisional Curriculum

Beginning Your Journey

The Ten Elements of a Curriculum

Determining Your Objectives

Educational Priority

Goals and Narratives


Rubrics and Sequencing

Strategies and Facilitation Guides

Educational Plan and Curricular Review

Assessing Learning

Partnerships, Buy-In, and Organizational Change

Special Topics in Residence Life

Utilizing Restorative Practices in Residence Life Curriculum

Intentional Conversations

Student and Professional Staff

Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approach Q&A Series

Residence Life-Specific Q&As

Case Studies:

Publications on Developing a Residential Curriculum or Curricular Approach:

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

About Curricular Approaches:

Reference Curricular Approaches:

Contain Sub-Sections on Curricular Approaches:

Doctoral Dissertations on the Curricular Approach:

Professional Development Videos:

Institutional Example Videos:

ACPA Institute on the Curricular Approach

Institute on the Curricular Approach / Residential Curriculum Institute:

2019 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2018 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2017 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, #ACPARCI 2017 by Erin Simpson (PDF)

2016 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2014 Institute Social Media Recaps: Day 1 (PDF), Day 2 (PDF), Day 3 (PDF), Reflections on the 2014 Residential Curriculum Institute by Nicolas Babarskis

2013 Institute Social Media Recaps: #ACPARCI 2013 Twitter Recap by ebeeler (PDF)

Past Institute Showcase Institutions:

  • American University (2010)
  • Appalachian State University (2017)
  • Carleton University (2017, 2018)
  • Central Michigan University (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Clemson University (2014, 2019, 2021, 2022)
  • Colorado Mesa University (2012, 2013)
  • Concordia College (2021) *Divisional
  • Dartmouth College (2009)
  • East Tennessee State University (2016)
  • Eastern Kentucky University (2018)
  • Florida International University (2019)
  • Georgia Southern University (2015)
  • Georgia State University (2021)
  • Gettysburg College (2010, 2011)
  • Indiana State University (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019)
  • Indiana University Bloomington (2018)
  • Lehigh University (2013, 2014, 2019) *Divisional
  • Macalester College (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016)
  • Messiah College (2011)
  • New York University (2010, 2015)
  • North Carolina State University (2017)
  • North Dakota State University (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) *Divisional
  • Northern Illinois University (2011, 2012)
  • Pennsylvania State University (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
  • Quinnipiac University (2018)
  • Radford University (2018)
  • St. Lawrence University (2012)
  • Saint Louis University (2011, 2012, 2013)
  • San Jose State University (2020)
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018)
  • SUNY Brockport (2011, 2013)
  • SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology (2018)
  • SUNY Geneseo (2019) *Divisional
  • SUNY University of Buffalo (2014, 2018, 2019)
  • Syracuse University (2009)
  • Texas A&M University at Galveston (2020) *Divisional
  • Texas State University (2021)
  • The College of New Jersey (2020)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (2022)
  • University of Central Florida (2016, 2018, 2019)
  • University of Colorado Boulder (2020)
  • University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (2022)
  • University of Connecticut (2017)
  • University of Dayton (2012, 2015)
  • University of Illinois Springfield (2019) *Divisional
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2016)
  • University of Iowa (2019)
  • University of Kansas (2018) *Divisional
  • University of Kentucky (2019)
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County (2019, 2020, 2022)
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst (2017, 2018)
  • University of Minnesota (2010, 2012, 2013)
  • University of Mississippi (2016)
  • University of New Hampshire (2009, 2014, 2016)
  • University of North Carolina School of Arts (2018) *Divisional
  • University of North Carolina Greensboro (2021) *Divisional
  • University of Oklahoma (2015, 2017, 2018, 2020 *Gender + Equality Center, 2022 *Divisional)
  • University of South Carolina (2013, 2015, 2016)
  • University of South Florida (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020)
  • University of St. Thomas (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022) *Divisional
  • University of Texas at Austin (2019, 2020)
  • University of Utah (2018, 2019, 2022)
  • University of Vermont (2021)
  • Virginia Tech (2013, 2014)
  • Wesleyan University (2020)
  • West Chester University (2019) *Divisional
  • Western Washington University (2011, 2012, 2020)
  • Whitman College (2009)
  • Wilfrid Laurier University (2017)

Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approach Examples:

Although there are many schools implementing curricular approaches to residential and student life, detailed information on these approaches can be difficult to find online. The following is a list of schools that have references to curricular frameworks and/or planning documents (including learning goals and outcomes, strategies, lesson plans, etc.) online. Note that these are of varying quality, and although an institution may list or reference a curricular-type frame work, they may not implement a true approach in practice. The links providing the most detail are listed first. Schools with demonstrated student affairs divisional curricula are noted with an asterisk.

Most useful links:

Additional institutions:

Presentations on Residential Curriculum and Curricular Approaches:

The following are presentations on residential curriculum that are publicly available online. The most useful links are in bold.


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

Dunkel, N. & Baumann, J. (Eds.). (2013). Campus housing management: Residence life and education. Columbus, OH: Association of College and University Housing Officers-International.

Kerr, K. G., Edwards, K. E., Tweedy, J., Lichterman, H. L., & Knerr, A. R. (2020). The curricular approach to student affairs: A revolutionary shift for learning beyond the classroom. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Kerr, K. G., & Tweedy, J. (2006). Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education. About Campus, 11(5), 9-15. doi:10.1002/abc.181

Kerr, K. G., Tweedy, J., Edwards, K. E., & Kimmel, D. (2017, March-April). Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom. About Campus, 22(1), 22-31. doi:10.1002/abc.21279

Kropf, H. (2020). Residence life as learning organizations: An inquiry into organizational elements that support integration of the residential curriculum. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Lichterman, H. L. (2016). Organizational Perspective On Implementing The Residential Curriculum Approach: An Ethnographic Case Study. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Pernotto, E. T. (2021). Embracing the role of educator: The experiences of housing and residence life staff in implementing a curriculum model. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Sanders, L. A. (2018). The influence of residential curriculum on first-year residential students in higher education. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Scheibler, D. L. (2021). Home sweet home: A phenomenological case study exploring the lived experiences of residential students in curricular environments. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Stauffer, C., & Kimmel, D. (2019). A framework for increasing housing and residence life staff capacity and confidence to develop and implement a residential curriculum. The Journal of College and University Student Housing, 45(3), 26-39.

Williams, S., Johnson, M. R., Kolek, E. A., Hornak, A. M., Ampaw, F., Gardner, K. (2021). Using inclusion assistants within a residential curriculum to improve the experiences and success of students with underrepresented identities. Journal of College and University Student Housing 47(2), 44-61.