Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

A Practitioner's Guide to a Learning-Centered Co-Curricular Activities Program

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

A Practitioner's Guide to a Learning-Centered Co-Curricular Activities Program

Article excerpt

Student affairs professionals are faced with the challenge of focusing on student learning. Through the implementation of a co-curricular activities program (CAP) model, described in this article, universities can develop a structured approach to programming that is based on students' developmental needs. This formalized co-curricular model provides a framework for campus wide programming that is grounded in theory, goals, and objectives.

In 1994, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) challenged student affairs professionals to create student affairs divisions that focus on student learning. Historically, student affairs practitioners have created these learning opportunities through programs in intramurals, student organizations, student services, residence halls, out-of-class involvement with faculty, peer interaction, and employment. A review of the literature (Andreas & Schuh, 1999; Barr & Tagg, 1995) has revealed a shift from this more traditional approach to a more structured design in learning and student development. Kuh, Schuh, & Whitt (1991) define learning from the student development perspective as follows:

the process in which an individual undergoes a number of changes toward more complex behavior that results from mastering the increasingly demanding challenges of life. These changes toward more complex behavior often culminate in the individual's transforming to a higher developmental position which results in his/her viewing people, events, and things in a fundamentally different way. (pp. 13 -14)

Learning in its broadest sense can be defined as those activities and programs that challenge students and afford them the opportunity to grow. The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges acknowledged the student affairs approach to learning in their 1997 report:

As we understand the term, learning is not something reserved for classrooms or degree programs. It is available to every member of the academic community, whether in the classroom or the administration building, the laboratory or the library, the residence halls or the performing arts center.... Learning is available to all and all serve learning. (p. 17)

Individuals are changed by the experience of higher education. It is the job of the student affairs professional to ensure that the change is positive and lasting. Pascarella and Upcraft (1999) state that "learning-oriented student affairs divisions are places where staff are experts on students and their learning, as well as the environments in which the learning takes place" (p. 79). Student affairs divisions provide programs to meet academic needs as well as emotional, physical, spiritual, and occupational needs.

Institutions of higher education and specifically student affairs divisions are at a crossroads. Many schools across the country are faced with the question of whether or not to teach the whole individual through formal models with a learning centered approach to education or to outsource their services. In Student Learning as Student Affairs Work: Responding to our Imperative (1999), Elizabeth J. Whitt posed the following question: "How do we go about creating and maintaining learning-oriented student affairs divisions?" (p. x). In answer to this question, a co-curricular activities program (CAP) model that allows the practitioner to use a learning centered approach to student development for the traditional aged student is needed. This article describes such a model.

A co-curricular student activities program is specifically designed to address intended student outcomes and is presented in a manner that expands educational opportunities, encourages personal development, improves academic skills, and enhances the health and lifestyle of all members of the university community. Only through the coordinated efforts of a variety of programs will students experience growth and development and learning in a wide array of areas. …

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