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Running head: CURRICULUM

Curriculum: Syllabus Construction and Reflection

Jon Merrill
Loyola University Chicago


The syllabus designed was for Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) 102:
Introduction to Inclusive Community Building in Residence Halls. The purpose of this course is
to provide new undergraduate resident assistants (RAs) with formative training during their first
semester within the position. Two overarching objectives were identified for ELPS 102. As
result of taking this course, resident assistants should be comfortable engaging in conversations
around social identities and be able to increase their self-awareness through reflection.
Logistically, ELPS 102 is a two credit course that meets for an hour and a half once a week.
Each course section will hold around twenty RAs and will be instructed by two staff members
from the Department of Residence life. Focusing on the three core elements of Fink's (2013)
integrated course design, the following section of this paper will examine the learning outcomes,
feedback and assessment, and learning activities utilized in ELPS 102.
Learning Outcomes
According to Fink (2013), having clearly defined and articulated learning outcomes
identifying what students should be getting out of a course is crucial for a learning-centered
approach (Fink, 2013, p. 82). Six learning outcomes were identified for this course in order to
achieve the overarching course objectives. Upon completion of this course, RAs will be able to
(1) articulate their core personal values, (2) identify elements of social justice, (3) connect their
personal values with issues of social justice, (4) utilize communication skills to mediate conflict,
issues of bias, and mental health, (5) use knowledge of reflection skills to increase selfawareness, and (6) value creating inclusive communities. Each of the six learning outcomes
correlate with one of the major categories in Fink's Taxonomy of Significant Learning:
foundational knowledge (2), application (4), integration (3), human dimension (1), caring (6),
and learning how to learn (5) (Fink, 2013). Although each of these categories creates an


impactful learning experience, it is in the intersection of all six that significant learning occurs.
Fink emphasized that through incorporating more of the six different types of learning into the
learning outcomes "the more likely each kind of learning will happen" (p. 91).
As previously mentioned, the first objective focuses on preparing RAs to be comfortable
engaging in conversations with individuals who hold differing social identities, especially about
their differences. Through the second and fourth learning outcomes, RAs will learn about
different identities and effective communication skills. Through practicing these skills and
raising their foundational knowledge, RAs should be more confident in their ability to engage in
difficult conversations. The second objective revolves around RAs having a more in-depth
understanding of themselves. Through the first and fifth learning outcomes, RAs will creatively
identify their personal values and then learn how to reflect on how these change over time.
Additionally, with the third learning outcome, RAs will continually reflect on how their personal
values connect with content related to social justice. Ideally, through these first five learning
outcomes, RAs will begin to value creating inclusive communities in their position as well as in
future communities they are a part of or create.
Feedback and Assessment
A key feature of Fink's (2013) model is that all components are integrated - they all
"reflect and support each other" (p. 71). Furthermore, Fink recommended using a backward
design when creating a course by identifying the way students will be assessed and then using
learning activities that will support these assessments. It is the goal of following sections to
begin demonstrating the integration between the three components of ELPS 102. Assignments
were crafted to be educative in nature and provided students with further opportunity for growth
(Fink, 2013). Four assignments were created that have a clear connection to at least one of the


learning outcomes previously mentioned: expression of personal philosophy, weekly journals,

confrontation video with reflective essay, and e-Portfolio presentation.
The full description of each assignment can be found within the attached syllabus;
however, the connection to the learning outcomes will be examined in this section. The first
assignment RAs complete is the expression of personal philosophy. This assignment connects to
the first learning outcome. Furthermore, this assignment was inspired by Wagner and Comptons
(2012) work Creating Innovators. One of the consistent themes throughout this book was the
role creativity plays in generating intrinsic motivation for students to learn. Therefore, this
assignment encourage RAs to not only articulate their personal values, but to do so in a way that
is meaningful for them and connects to their passions.
The weekly journal assignment connects to the fifth learning outcome and is an ongoing
assignment that focuses on allowing students space to reflect on and connect their experiences
within the position, the values that they have already articulated to the novel information they are
learning within the classroom. This assignment also provides instructors the opportunity to
utilize Fink's (2013) FIDeLity feedback. This assignment provides frequent, immediate, and
discriminating feedback to students in a loving way (Fink, 2013). RAs will complete these
journals during the end of class and instructors will provide feedback on their reflections,
prompting them to challenge themselves further or consider other viewpoints. Although this
assignment will be graded on completion, a rubric will be provided so that RAs understand what
is expected of them in these reflections.
The confrontation video with reflective essay connects to the fourth learning outcome and
is a mix between forward-looking assessment and self-assessment. Forward-looking assessment
focuses on "authentic tasks" that RAs will complete in their roles and models the assessment


after these tasks (Fink, 2013, p. 95). RAs will first video record themselves acting out three
different scenarios with a partner. Referring to the videos, they will then complete a written selfassessment of their performance. As recommended by Fink, students will have an opportunity,
based on the information provided by campus partners, to develop the criteria and standards in
which they will evaluate themselves. Furthermore, this assignment will provide another
opportunity to develop their self-reflection skills.
Finally, the cumulative assignment for this course will be the e-Portfolio presentations.
This assignment is associated with the third learning outcome and tasks RAs with identifying
themes regarding social justice that arisen in their journals and presenting on how they connect
to their expression of personal values that they articulated in the beginning of the course. This
assignment not only requires RAs to identify what was learned over the semester, but also how
this new knowledge fits into their value system. This is a skill RAs will use in their future;
therefore, this also serves as a pseudo- forwards-looking assessment.
Teaching and Learning Activities
In broad overview, this course has three distinct 'blocks' intrapersonal level,
interpersonal level, and community level - that comprises the teaching strategy. The
intrapersonal block focuses on self-awareness and RAs general knowledge of identities and
social justice topics. The next block, having this self-awareness as a foundation, focuses more
on the communication skills necessary for interpersonal connections. The final block focuses on
community-wide concerns and builds off the previous two blocks. Broadly speaking there are
three distinct learning activities that are utilized within the course, each connecting to multiple
learning outcomes.


In general, active learning experiences are used throughout the classroom. Fink (2013)
specifically identified these type of experiences as indirect doing experiences (p.120). In these
type of experiences, students are engaged through such activities as small group problem
solving, role play, and case studies (Fink, 2013). Students are engaged in some type of 'doing'
experience, however, what is being done is representative or students learn vicariously. Two
indirect doing experiences are utilized in ELPS 102 in the form of activities and role play.
Activities are used to allow students to gain a further understanding of their values and issues of
social justice, and were selected from Adams, Bell, and Griffin (2007) work Teaching for
Diversity and Social Justice. This book includes instructions, materials, and facilitation guides
for learning activities that focus on both broad and specific topics of social justice. This is used
during the first and third blocks to engage RAs. The activities used specifically relate back to the
first and second learning outcome. During the second block, students will practice the
communication skills through role play. At the beginning of the three classes that comprise the
second block, campus partners will be invited in to identify the skills necessary to mediate
conflict, address mental health concerns and bias incidents. The following portion of the class
time will allow RAs the opportunity to practice these skills with their peers. This learning
activity specifically relates to the fourth learning outcome and prepares students for the
confrontation video and reflective essay assignment.
The journals, in addition to being an assessment and feedback tool, also serve as a
learning activity. Fink (2013) classified reflection as learning activities that encourage students
to make meaning of the information that has just been learned. Overall, the journals serve as the
primary learning tool for the fifth and third learning outcomes. More specifically, the fifth
learning outcome focuses on students learning how to reflect on their experiences and identities.


This is accomplished through weekly journals where staff continually offer feedback to RAs on
how to further challenge themselves. Additionally, the focus of reflection is on connecting RA's
values and experiences with the different content that is being covered in class that day.
Therefore, RAs are also practicing for their cumulative project.
Reflection of Syllabus Creation
Overall, I enjoyed the process of creating a syllabus. Integrating the course on all levels
made it easier for me to understand the intentionally between the different components. The
easiest part throughout this process was making sure the course was integrated on a linear level.
In other words, it was easy to integrate one learning outcome with one assignment and one
learning activity. For example, in the syllabus I found it very easy to integrate the second block
focused on the interpersonal communication skills. The learning outcome was focused on using
communication skills and was assessed through forward-looking role play. It then made sense
for RAs to practice these skills within the classroom where they could get feedback from their
peers. However, the difficult part for me was attempting to integrate across all of the learning
outcomes. While crafting my syllabus I tried to incorporate multiple learning outcomes into
specific assignments and learning activities. From the previous example, the assessment used
was the confrontation video with reflective essay. The reflective essay portion of the assignment
was an attempt to also integrate the learning outcome focused on developing self-reflection
skills. I think the process of integrating multiple learning outcomes throughout the various
components is where Fink's model loses traction. However, this is slightly in conflict with his
earlier sentiment that being able to incorporate multiple types of learning experiences into one
assignment produces more significant learning.


I approached integrating multiple learning outcomes into specific assignments by

creating a learning outcome that focused on this integration. Specifically, the third learning
outcome focuses on learning how to connect RAs values with issues of social justice. These two
components - personal values and issues of social justice correlate with the first two learning
outcomes. Therefore, when structuring the remaining components, I needed to create learning
opportunities and assessment where students would be able to connect the first two learning
outcomes. This approached helped to connect the course as a whole; however, I still had
difficulty connecting the interpersonal skills that were focused on in block two to the entire
course. I was able to partially navigate this challenge through the weekly journals - students had
the opportunity to reflect on how the skills they were learning were applicable. Ideally, the skills
they are learning in this block would be used and built upon in the class dialogues.
Another challenge that I ran into was needing to reconsider situational factors as I
developed my syllabus. These factors were taken into consideration when I first began to
develop my syllabus, but re-emerged as I began to think about learning activities. Specifically,
Fink (2013) identified that a third activity that promoted active learning was getting information
and ideas (in addition to experiencing and reflecting). In reading through other syllabi, this was
accomplished through assigned readings outside of class. I realized that the course I was
designing would be in addition to the academic requirements that RAs would need to complete
as student. Furthermore, the RA position already required a significant amount of time, and this
class and any other assignments outside of class would be competing with time they had to
complete their other academic responsibilities. I felt that students would be more likely to
engage within this class more fully if it was not competing with their primary responsibilities as
students. Therefore, outside of the three core assignments, I decided that all other learning


activities would be completed during the scheduled class time. Using Adams et al., I focused on
finding learning activities that would engage them with key topics during the class and allowed
time and space for reflection to further make meaning of these concepts. Since this class was a
co-curricular requirement and not necessarily part of their academic responsibilities - it was
important for me to justify how I was using their time.
Overall, this assignment challenged me to approach learning-centered pedagogy both
intentionally and creatively. One area that I wanted to improve in was being more intentionally
in creating learning experiences for students - following Fink's (2013) model of integrated course
design provided me with a practical experience. However, no model or theory is perfect and
there were places where my syllabus construction troubleshooted Fink's model. These
disconnects, especially when it came to integrating multiple learning outcomes across the,
created the opportunity for me to introduce some creativity into my syllabus.



Adams, M. J., Bell, L. A., & Griffin P. (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice
(2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to
developing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Wagner, T., & Compton, R. A. (2012). Creating innovators: The making of young people who
will change the world. New York: Scribner.



ELPS 102 (001): Introduction to Inclusive Community Building in Residence Halls

Fall 2015
Thursday, 1-2:30PM
Mundelein 612
Instructor Information:
Jonathan Merrill
Assistant Resident Director, Department of Residence Life
Office Phone: (773) 508-3680
Tim Griffin
Residential Director, Department of Residence Life
Office Phone: (773) 508-8961
Office Hours
Office hours are scheduled by appointment.
This course is designed to increase resident assistants competence in building inclusive
communities and is supplemental to the positional training offered in August. Specific
attention will be paid to developing skills in intrapersonal reflection and interpersonal
communication skills. Resident assistants will need to be aware of their intrapersonal
processes and values and how these impact their interpersonal and community
relationship in order to understand how to build inclusive communities with their
residents. This course will prepare resident assistants for service as competent, wellbalanced student staff in Loyola University Chicagos diverse residential communities.
Objectives & Outcome:
Course Objectives:
As result of taking this course, resident assistants will be comfortable in engaging in
conversations with people who hold different identities about their differences as well as
have a greater understanding of their self. Ideally, students will be motivated to continue
to practice of self-reflection in their everyday lives.
Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, resident assistants will be able to:
1. Articulate their core personal values.
2. Identify elements of social justice.
3. Connect their personal values with issues of social justice.


4. Utilize communication skills to mediate conflict, issues of bias, and
mental health.
5. Use knowledge of reflection skills to increase self-awareness.
6. Value creating inclusive communities.

Institutional Policies & Philosophies:

Academic Honesty
Academic honesty is an expression of interpersonal justice, responsibility and care,
applicable to Loyola University faculty, students, and staff, which demands that the
pursuit of knowledge in the university community be carried out with sincerity and
integrity. The School of Educations Policy on Academic Integrity can be found at: For additional
academic policies and procedures refer to:
Students who have disabilities which they believe entitle them to accommodations under
the Americans with Disabilities Act should register with the Services for Students with
Disabilities (SSWD) office. To request accommodations, students must schedule an
appointment with an SSWD coordinator. Students should contact SSWD at least four
weeks before their first semester or term at Loyola. Returning students should schedule
an appointment within the first two weeks of the semester or term. The University policy
on accommodations and participation in courses is available at:
Harassment (Bias Reporting)
It is unacceptable and a violation of university policy to harass, discriminate against or
abuse any person because of his or her race, color, national origin, gender, sexual
orientation, disability, religion, age or any other characteristic protected by applicable
law. Such behavior threatens to destroy the environment of tolerance and mutual respect
that must prevail for this university to fulfill its educational and health care mission. For
this reason, every incident of harassment, discrimination or abuse undermines the
aspirations and attacks the ideals of our community. The university qualifies these
incidents as incidents of bias.
In order to uphold our mission of being Chicago's Jesuit Catholic University-- a diverse
community seeking God in all things and working to expand knowledge in the service of
humanity through learning, justice and faith, any incident(s) of bias must be reported and
appropriately addressed. Therefore, the Bias Response (BR) Team was created to assist
members of the Loyola University Chicago community in bringing incidents of bias to
the attention of the university. If you believe you are subject to such bias, you should
notify the Bias Response Team at this link:
Electronic Communication Policies and Guidelines
The School of Education faculty, students and staff respect each others rights, privacy
and access to electronic resources, services, and communications while in the pursuit of



academic and professional growth, networking and research. All members of the
university community are expected to demonstrate the highest standards of integrity,
communication, and responsibility while accessing and utilizing technology, information
resources, and computing facilities. A link to the Loyola University Chicago and School
of Education official policies and guidelines can be found at:
Requirements & Expectations:
As a supplemental course to the resident assistant position, this class will only meet once
per week. Therefore, you must be present to engage fully in the course content. I
understand that sometimes life priorities can make this challenging. However, the
expectation is that you will be present for the full class session each week. Should you
miss a class, arrive late, or leave early, you are responsible for identifying and obtaining
missed material from your peers. Please notify the instructor via email prior to the start of
class should you need to be absent. Any absence will result in the loss of participation
points for that day. Routinely arriving or leaving late will result in the loss of
participation points as well.
This course is designed using a traditional seminar format in which much of the learning
is emerged from group discussion, activities, and student engagement with each topic. As
such, preparation through completion of each weeks readings as well as thoughtful
reflection on the topics are critical not only for each individuals intellectual
development, but the groups collective development as well. Readings and multimedia
sources have been purposefully selected for their relevance to the given topic and
contribution to the overall literature. Given much thought has gone into the readings,
students are expected to complete them in advance of each class.
Given the seminar format of this course design, student participation in discussions and
learning activities is critical. However, it is important to note that how a student
participates is often a function of their particular learning style. Therefore, participation is
less about the frequency with which a student engages in class discussion and more about
the quality of the contributions. For the purposes of this course, participation is valued in
which students build upon one anothers comments, provide meaningful connections to
practice, share critical observations and insights on a topic, and generally increase the
complexity and richness of the discussion. Students are also encouraged to act as
gatekeepers to the conversation and encourage the participation of others as well as pose
questions to one another. To achieve this, a variety of pedagogical approaches are used to
ensure that each individuals preferred learning style is addressed over the course of the



Civil Discourse
Although deep and meaningful learning often comes as a result of cognitive and
emotional dissonance, I firmly believe that transformative learning is the result of
compassionate learning communities in which individuals feel both challenged and
supported. The underlying expectation of this course is that participants will approach
one another with the same ethic of care and developmental concern with which they deal
with students. This approach requires a willingness to engage in critical and
controversial, but ultimately civil discourse aimed at advancing our individual and
collective knowledge. Students are expected to engage in social perspective-taking, a
skill that requires both empathy and the ability to acknowledge multiple points of view.
Email will be used as the primary mode of correspondence for this course. As such, it is
imperative that you activate your Loyola University Chicago account and check it daily.
Please also check your Loyola spam mail and mail foundry to ensure course related
messages are not misdirected.
Assignments, Evaluation, & Grading:
Assignment Expectations:
Assignments are due at the time specified in the course syllabus and should be submitted
according to the directions provided. Assignments are expected to be turned in on time so
please plan appropriately to avoid unnecessary penalties. Any assignment submitted after
the due date will be reduced by a half letter grade. An additional full letter grade
reduction will be applied for each 24 hour period after the original time due. Extensions
will not be granted. Note that the instructor will not hunt down missing assignments and
it is your responsibility to ensure that they are turned in by the stated deadlines.
Note that if an assignment fails to follow the instructions provided, a grade of zero will
be assigned. This includes adherence to page lengths and formatting as well as addressing
the core content specified for each assignment. Detailed explanations of assignments are
provided in the assignments section of the Sakai site. Students are encouraged to consult
with the instructor regarding any questions associated with assignments. Additionally,
most assignments will be submitted electronically through the Sakai system with clear
instructions on how to do so.
For all assignments focused on writing, please use the following guidelines when writing
your papers: Times New Roman, 12-point font, 1 inch margins. Cite all references in-text
and in a separate reference section at the end of the paper. Students will be provided
substantial feedback regarding content, structure, and grammar. It is the students
responsibility to ensure that the feedback provided for an assignment is integrated into
the next assignment. If problems repeatedly appear across assignments, the percentage of
point deduction will be increased



NOTE: Students should not exceed the suggested length of assignments as dictated by the
full assignment descriptions.
All coursework and assignments must be completed by the end of the term as grades of
incomplete are generally not assigned. The following point distribution will be used to
determine the final course grade:
Total Points Earned
100 94
93 90
89 87
86 84
83 80
79 77
76 74
73 70
69 60
59 0

Final Grade

Assignment Approach:
Assignments and potential point distributions are detailed below:
Weekly Journals
Confrontation Video & Reflective Essay
e-Portfolio Presentation

20 points
20 points
30 points
30 points
100 points

Expression of Personal Philosophy Students will be tasked with articulating their

personal philosophy and value system. Students are encouraged to express their personal
philosophy and values in a creative form poetry, art, etc but writing a traditional paper
is also acceptable. Traditional papers should be 2-3 pages in length. Students interested in
pursuing a more creative form to express their personal philosophy will need to provide a
short paragraph (no longer than 1 page) to curate their submission.
Weekly Journals Students will be provided journals and will be required to complete a
short journal reflection on assigned weeks. In these reflections, students are asked to
connect their current experiences within the resident assistant position and personal
values to topics of social justice and other related course content. Ten minutes will be
allotted at the end of class for students to complete these journal reflections. Instructors
will collect these journals and provide feedback for each entry.
Confrontation Video with Reflective Essay In groups of two, students will video tape
themselves addressing a conflict, bias incident, and mental health concern. Each student



will complete a scenario in each of these three areas. Using the criteria established within
class, students will then write a 3-5 page reflection where they will evaluate and reflect
on their performance.
e-Portfolio Presentation Students will develop and e-Portfolio and present it to the
class. Students will identify themes of social justice that have arisen in their journal
entries throughout the semester and connect them with their expression of personal
philosophy statement.
Evaluative Rubric:
Assignments in this course will be graded according to rubrics provided in advance. This
should aid students in focusing on the specific areas of evaluation. Different assignments
draw on different learning outcomes with specific evaluative criteria outlined in the
detailed assignment descriptions.


Sequence/ Weekly Calendar

August 27

Course Description and Expectations
Course Expectations
Ice Breakers and Team Builders


Identification of Values
In-Class : Values Activity


Principles of Social Justice

In-Class Activity: Social Group
Membership Profile


Communication Skills: Mental Health Skills

In-Class: Guest Presenter from Wellness
In-Class Activity: Role Play

Journal #2


Communication Skills: Conflict Mediation

In-Class: Guest Presenter from OSCCR
In-Class Activity: Role Play

Journal #3

October 1

Communication Skills: Bias Incidents

In-Class: Guest Presenter from SDMA
In-Class Activity: Role Play

Journal #4

October 8

Behind Closed Door

In-Class Activity: Behind Closed Doors
Group Discussion: What is a set of criteria
for evaluating good performance in
these skills?

Journal #5

October 15

What is Community?


Express & Journal #1

Confrontation Video &

Reflective Essay

Class Activity: Self-Assessment


Class will convene over dinner at a restaurant

chosen by the class
October 22

Model of Intercultural Sensitivity: Denial

In-Class Activity: Exploring Privilege and

Journal #6



In Class Dialogue

October 29

Model of Intercultural Sensitivity: Defense

In-Class Activity: Multiple Identity Wheel
In Class Dialogue

Journal #7

October 29

Model of Intercultural Sensitivity:

In-Class Activity: Micro-aggressions
In Class Dialogue

Journal #8


Model of Intercultural Sensitivity: Acceptance

In-Class Activity: Critical Incident Review
In Class Dialogue

Journal #9


Model of Intercultural Sensitivity: Adaptation

& Integration
In-Class Activity: What is an Ally? What
is Empowerment?
In Class Dialogue

Journal #10

November Presentations
December 3 Presentations

Thanksgiving Break