Developing learning outcomes for Resident Assistant training

Diesner, Michael R.
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University of Delaware
Outcomes have not been defined for the Resident Assistant (RA) position at Towson University. The absence of these learning outcomes contributes to the RAs' inability to articulate what knowledge and skills they gained from the job. Consequently, many students may be falling short of their potential for learning and growth. To define said outcomes, various approaches to learning outcomes in higher education, leadership development, and self-authorship were explored, including the work of Warren Bennis, George Kuh, and Marcia B. Baxter Magolda. In addition, Towson University Housing and Residence Life artifacts and documents related to the Resident Assistant position were collected and analyzed. Interviews and a focus group were conducted with select members of the Housing and Residence Life staff to determine the various perspectives on what a Resident Assistant should be learning from their experience. Professional staff members and Resident Assistants were included in the study. Several inconsistencies were found among the collected documents and artifacts, but the interviews and focus group provided many points of agreement about what knowledge and skills the Resident Assistant position should provide for students. An ability to work with and communicate with others, specifically individuals different from oneself, emerged as the most valuable skills a student can gain. Nineteen learning outcomes for first-year Resident Assistants and eight learning outcomes for second- and third-year Resident Assistants are proposed in the following domains: communication, diversity, administrative skills, teamwork, conflict and crisis management, and community building. An online portfolio to collect individual Resident Assistant artifacts and reflections, a revised Resident Assistant course syllabus, and an outcome-driven training schedule are also proposed to introduce and reinforce the learning outcomes throughout the Resident Assistant experience.