Residential Curriculum

The Residential Curriculum is the framework upon which we base all of our work in the Office of Residence Life. The Curriculum answers the question, "What do we want students to learn as a result of living in our residential communities?"

All of our staff in ORL are educators who support student learning. The Curriculum outlines what we want students to learn.

Developing and revising the Curriculum is a process that consists of:

  • identifying an educational priority, broad learning outcomes and specific competencies
  • identifying and implementing intentional strategies to achieve the priority, outcomes and competencies
  • assessing students' achievement of the priority, outcomes and competencies
  • revising the competencies and strategies to be more effective. 

Foundations of the Residential Curriculum

The development and implementation of the Curriculum is guided by many philosophical foundations. These theories, goals, values, mission and philosophy statements form the backbone of the Curriculum. The foundations include but are not limited to:

  • Miami University Strategic Goals
  • The Goals of the Miami Plan for Liberal Education
  • Learning Partnership Model
  • Student Development Theory
  • Office of Residence Life Mission
  • Office of Residence Life Departmental Values
  • Living Learning Community Mission
  • Appreciative Advising Philosophy
  • Professional Standards and Ethics statements from professional organizations
  • University Mission Statement ("The Engaged University")

No one of the above is dominant over the other. Some are more applicable based on the specific competency and strategy.

Educational Priority, Goals and Learning Outcomes

In developing the Residential Curriculum a wide array of staff in the Office of Residence Life, answered the question, "What do we want students to learn as a result of living in our residential communities?" Over the course of several years, the responses to that question was narrowed and refined. From those discussions, we derived an overall educational priority, four broad goals and specific learning outcomes.

Educational Priority

Our educational priority is to enable residents to become citizen leaders and students as engaged scholars within their community. 

Goals

During the process described above, a long list of things we want student to learn was generated. Each of those items fit well into one of four broad categories, which we have labeled our learning outcomes:

  1. academic success
  2. cultural competency
  3. effective community engagement
  4. intrapersonal development.

Learning Outcomes

Once connected to a goal, each item we want our students to learn was further refined into learning outcomes using the following guidelines. Learning outcomes should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable: can we determine if students have achieved the learning outcome?
  • Results from intentional strategies implemented by our staff: we recognize that students will grow in some ways regardless of what we do. 
  • Student development theory teaches us that students are at various stages of development which affects their learning and future development. For example a one must first identify one's beliefs and values before one can refine them, after which one can integrate them 
  • All of the learning outcomes are outlined on the first page of the Residential Curriculum.

Tiers

To account for the development of residents between years, we assigned each learning outcome to one of three tiers. Generally speaking, we believe that traditionally-aged, first-year students moving into our residence halls for the first time will be at the Moving In tier of their development. Generally, students should exhibit the learning outcomes of the Moving Through tier by the end of the second year of college. Finally, students in their third, fourth, and fifth years should exhibit the learning outcomes outlined in the Moving On or Advanced tier of the Residential Curriculum.

Strategies

We implement the Residential Curriculum using what we call strategies. Almost everything we do in the Office of Residence Life is a strategy.

There are many kinds, types, categories of strategies:

  • One on one / conversation (proactive or reactive, formal or informal, always natural)
  • Program/workshop/event/activity (corridor or community-wide, planned, one-time or series)
  • Community/corridor meeting
  • Passive program (bulletin board, newsletter, e-mail)
  • Community council
  • Academic advising
  • University/community event (with intentional reflection)
  • Community standards/agreements
  • Spontaneous initiative
  • Social events/simple recreational programs

Following is a guideline for how staff identify and use a strategy:

  • Identify a need of your students
  • Connect that need with a learning outcome in the Residential Curriculum
  • Develop a strategy to achieve that learning outcome using a lesson plan
  • Evaluate the strategy using the on-line strategy evaluation
  • Assess when possible if you were effective in achieving the learning outcome
One strategy can achieve multiple learning outcomes. Strategies can be related to your LLC objectives, but do not have to be. Seek advice from supervisor and peers when needed; heed instructions of supervisor.

Departmental Strategies

Most strategies will be developed by advisers and RAs. In some cases, all staff will use common strategies referred to as departmental strategies. Some departmental strategies are for particular types of communities where appropriate. The lesson plan for many of the departmental strategies has already been written for staff.

RA and Resident One-on-One Conversations

All Resident Assistants will meet one on one with each of their residents four times a year. These one-on-one conversations are meant to build strong rapport with residents while helping residents access resources in an intentional way. A lesson plan has been developed to provide some direction for each of the discussions.

Corridor/Community Meetings

Resident Assistants use Corridor/Community Meetings to build community, assess and meet community needs, plan community events and disseminate information. Following is a set of Lesson Plans for each meeting every RA should conduct.

Community Agreements (FY & Mixed)/Community Standards (Upper class) 

The Community Standards/Agreement process is meant to empower residents to make decisions about policies, behavior, and use of space/common property within a corridor or apartment community. Resident Assistants will facilitate these conversations. In the first year communities, they may end up leading these discussions. In the mixed and upper class communities, we encourage RAs to seek out residents to lead these conversations, while the RA might step in to ask additional reflective questions or help keep the group on task. RAs will hand out Community Agreement Guides and Community Standards Guides to help residents to reflect and prepare prior to coming to the meeting. These documents are printed centrally by the Office of Residence Life. You will receive your corridor/communities copies from your supervisor. Resident Assistants should direct questions to their supervisor.

Bulletin Boards

Resident Assistants must post a new bulletin board every month including August. Following are guidelines and suggestions for posting bulletin boards:

  • The bulletin board in August should be a welcome and introduction to your community
  • The bulletin board in April should clearly outline hall closing procedures
  • Bulletin boards must intentionally address one or more learning outcome from the Residential Curriculum
  • Celebrating your students' successes and achievements is encouraged for at least one of your bulletin boards
  • RAs may use pre-made bulleting boards from the Center (210 Warfield), from other offices across campus or from the internet
  • Bulletin boards should be creative and interesting
  • RAs will list the topic of each new bulletin board in their weekly report (if a new one was created that week)

Roommate Agreements

Resident Assistants will be distributing and discussing Roommate Agreements with all residents. Our goal is to collect 100% of these worksheets from each room/suite/apartment. Resident Assistants should revisit the Roommate Agreements in the middle of the first semester. If a roommate conflict emerges the Roommate Agreement should be used and, if necessary, revised.

Leadership Teams 

All communities, including the Commuter Center, will have Community Leadership Teams to engage student leaders in various learning outcomes within the Residential Curriculum. Resident Assistants will assist Professional Staff in recruiting students to participate in this departmental strategy. Community Leadership Teams are charged with three areas: 1) social and community building initiatives, 2) programming related to the Living Learning Community goals, and 3) advocacy for student and university issues and needs.

Diversity & Social Justice Programs

All communities, including the Commuter Center, will plan and implement Social Justice programs designed to educate residents on issues of multiculturalism, power, privilege, and difference. These active programs will be designed to meet several of the learning outcomes and better enact the Cultural Competency Goal.

Living Learning Community Kick-Offs

Living Learning Communities are central to the residential education experience at Miami University. All Living Learning Communities will create and implement a LLC Kick-off event that introduces residents to the goals for each particular LLC. Resident Assistants should consult with their Professional Staff for the logistics and details of this LLC Kick-off event as well as their role in planning and implementing it.

Fire Safety Fair & Online Module

First Year students are required to complete the online Fire Safety Training and attend the Fire Safety Fair, which includes "The Great Escape" activity. RAs in first year and mixed residence halls will assist in the marketing and implementation of the Fire Safety Fair in their area.

Conversations with Documented Students

Professional staff will conduct follow-up conversations with every student in their community who is documented. The nature of the conversation is to express care for the student and the community, share information if necessary, and where appropriate, make a follow-up plan with the student. In many cases, these conversations will be an opportunity for professional staff to help students "understand how one's actions and decisions affect the community" among other learning outcomes in the Curriculum.

First-Year and Mixed Hall Strategies Only

There are a few strategies that are only used with our first-year student population. These include: participation in Convocation, participation in Summer Reading Book Discussions, and participation in academic advising.  Resident Assistants will be trained on Welcome Week initiatives during August RA Training. 

Assessment

How can we tell if our students are achieving the goals of the curriculum?

Assessment of learning outcomes can occur at the macro level (institutional research, national surveys, etc) or at the micro level (assessment of individual resident or corridor). Possible means of assessment include:

  • Pre-test /post-test
  • Survey
  • Observed, obvious changed behavior
  • Follow-up discussion
  • None (some outcomes can't be easily measured or will not reveal themselves until later) 
  • Analysis of the MU Assessment of Living and Learning Survey results.