Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

Sub-Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Christian K. Anderson

Abstract

How does a college or university housing department adopt and adapt to a new curricular approach? This qualitative descriptive case study describes how one, mid-size, co-educational residence life department in the Midwestern region of the United States adopted the residential curriculum approach based on “The 10 Essential Elements of a Residential Curriculum” (The 10EERC) that are a foundational aspect of the content discussed at the ACPA – College Student Educators International’s annual Residential Curriculum Institute (RCI). This study is the first empirical research published on the residential curriculum approach. Additionally, there is a deficit in existing literature on Bolman and Deal’s (2014) Four Frames of Organizations – Structural, Human Resources, Political, and Symbolic – from a qualitative perspective in campus housing departments. The goal of this study is to determine conditions that contribute to effective practice, thereby positioning housing and residence life departments to contribute to, and enhance, student gains towards learning and development in on-campus living and learning environments.

Research questions for the study address changes that occurred in the residence life unit when adopting the residential curriculum approach, participants’ perceptions of positives and challenges in the transition to the approach, and how residence life staff characterize their experience of adopting the approach. Data collection included a site visit for semi-structured interviews with professional and graduate staff, focus groups with student staff and student leaders affiliated with the department’s Residence Hall Association, a photo activity, and document analysis.

Just as the human experience is complex, such is the case in organizations with competing institutional and departmental priorities, distinct staff roles and turnover, and human emotions. Findings reflect that institutional values influence the design of educational practices and tools and that participants reported positive experiences and challenges with communication. The dichotomy in participants’ accounts reveals the opportunity for transparency and inclusion of student leaders in departmental changes. Implications may inform (1) practice in housing and residence life departments, (2) graduate preparation programs and assistantships, (3) functional units in student affairs, (4) divisions of student affairs, (5) ACPA’s RCIs, and (6) The 10EERC. A new organizational tool incorporating Bolman and Deal’s (2014) four frames is presented.

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