Creating Curriculum Facilitation Guides for “Crisis and Emergency Learning Experiences”

When approaching campus crises and emergencies, you may have detailed plans in place for addressing safety, operational, and logistical concerns, but what plans do you have in place for utilizing the situation as an opportunity for student learning?  Focusing on student learning in these moments can be just as important as focusing on the physical safety and psychological needs of students.

For example, a racially-motivated hate attack may occur on campus that impacts the campus community.  Although a campus may already have a plan for working through these incidents procedurally, there are also opportunities for community and individual education.  Having facilitation guides that can be modified and deployed according to the specific contexts of the incident can help colleges and universities ensure they are providing a holistic response that fits with broader learning goals set by the institution.

Equally as important is integrating already planned regular educational moments surrounding these issues throughout the year (as opposed to waiting until an incident occurs) and therefore pre-emptively develop an educational environment where these incidents may be less likely to occur in the first place.


During our session at the 2019 ACPA Convention, we will explore how unforeseen campus crises, emergencies, and incidents can provide educational moments for students.  Utilizing the curricular approach as a framework, we will help participants begin to design “emergency learning plans” that can be implemented when these situations occur.

The curricular approach to out-of-classroom learning has emerged and matured as an exciting new method for developing intentional learning environments in student affairs divisions and departments. Refined over the past two decades, curricular approaches are built off of defined learning outcomes, integrated assessments, and more squarely focus the work of student affairs educators on student learning (Blimling, 2015; Kerr & Tweedy, 2006; Kerr, Tweedy, Edwards, & Kimmel, 2017). These curricula represent holistic learning plans that are designed to build off of and follow a student’s developmental journey through college.

A key piece of the curricular approach is the design of intentional “facilitation guides” or “lesson plans.” These guides provide facilitators with the necessary knowledge to successfully facilitate student learning around a given topic and provide suggested activities that a facilitator can engage in. When most campuses develop these facilitation guides, they are for regularly planned and scheduled learning opportunities. When it comes to campus crises and incidents, however, these are often unforeseen and unplanned. This is where “emergency learning plans” can help.

Emergency learning plans are developed proactively. They provide basic information that educators and facilitators can draw from when an unforeseen situation arises. Because of this, they need to be written broadly enough to apply to a number of unique circumstances, but specific enough to provide facilitators with appropriate options when responding to an incident. Having these facilitation guides in place can allow educators to respond more quickly and provide insight into what pre-training may need to occur to make them better responders.

In thinking through the development of your own potential emergency learning plans, ask yourself:

  • What types of situations may occur on campus?
  • What safety and operational concerns need to be addressed first?
  • Reflecting on departmental and divisional learning objectives, which themes may apply in a specific situation?
  • Who would be the most appropriate facilitators to help students process these situations and the potential learning they will take away?
  • In what ways can you proactively train staff and proactively educate students around these topics?



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

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

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


About the Presenters:

Erin Simpson (she, her, hers) is the Director for the Gender + Equality Center and Coordinator for the OU Advocates at the University of Oklahoma. In this role, Erin directs the gender-based violence prevention programs, advocacy response to sexual assault, women’s outreach programming, and LGBTQIA2-S education and programming for all three University of Oklahoma campuses. She has previously served in Residence Life at the University of Oklahoma, focusing on the first-year experience, curriculum development, assessment, and graduate student development. Erin currently holds two degrees in education and women’s and gender studies. She is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at OU.


Dr. Paul Gordon Brown (he, him, his) is a scholar, consultant, and speaker specializing in residential curriculum and curricular approaches to student learning outside the classroom. Paul has nearly 20 years of professional experience in higher education and student affairs, holding positions within residence life ranging from Resident Assistant to Dean of Students. Paul holds a PhD in Higher Education from Boston College and has taught in the Higher Education Programs at Boston College and Merrimack College. Paul currently serves as the Director of Curriculum, Training, and Research for the higher education technology software company, Roompact. An experienced presenter, Paul has had accepted and given over 80 refereed presentations at international and regional conferences. Paul has also served as a faculty member for the Institute on the Curricular Approach (formerly the Residential Curriculum Institute) for multiple years, is a faculty member for ACUHO-I’s Professional Standards Institute, and is a graduate of ACUHO-I’s National Housing Training Institute. Paul is a prolific author, writing self-published work on residential curriculum and numerous peer-reviewed book chapters and articles on technology and student learning.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s