By Natalie Allan, Assistant Director, Residence Life Services

In our residence community, we are focused on the learning that takes place outside of the classroom. We wonder what should students learn as result of living in residence? What strategies should we use to promote this learning? And how will we know if they learned as we intended?

Using a residential curricular approach is an intentional way of promoting learning in our residence life initiatives. It allows us to create environments and experiences where students discover and construct knowledge for themselves.

The 10 essential elements of a curricular approach are:

  1. Directly connects to the institutional mission
  2. Learning goals and outcomes are developed and based in a defined educational priority
  3. Basis in development theory and research
  4. Educational strategies are developed to advance learning outcomes
  5. Educational strategies go beyond programmed events
  6. Student staff are utilized in roles appropriate to their skill development
  7. Learning is scaffolded and sequenced to follow time-based development
  8. Key stakeholders are identified and involved
  9. Peer-review is accomplish through an intentional process
  10. Assessment occurs at all levels: from educational priority to learning goals and outcomes

When we constructed our curriculum, we began by creating student learning outcomes, which is different than a traditional programmatic approach. We wanted to make sure that we had clearly defined goals and strategies for students and have our professional services staff assess and create lesson plans. Our emphasis when adopting a curricular approach is on individual learning and ensuring there are multiple strategies for intentional interactions. For us at Carleton, this includes strategies such as intentional conversations, community meetings, servant leadership opportunities, student-led initiatives and relationship builders.

For more information about the Residence Life Services curricular approach, please do not hesitate to contact me at

For additional information on residential curriculum, please check out this article.