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Since residence education or residence learning is a style of teaching within higher education, programmers in residence halls need to know the necessary ingredients for a successful, well-rounded residence hall program. Before residence hall programming took on educational importance, it had little planning or structure. Usually student leaders or residence hall staffs decided to, or were required to, program. They carried out a number of programs each year with no needs assessment, plan, structure, or evaluation. This, in turn, gave little continuity to the programs from year to year.

The following eight-point checklist can be used to guarantee that your programs will be carefully planned, executed, and evaluated.

Assess Needs and Interests

Often skipped by beginner programmers, this process is usually the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful program. If a program does not meet the interests or needs of the students, attendance and participation is probably going to be minimal. There are two basic categories of needs and interests assessment. One category comes from the population for which the program is being planned, and the other method comes from the programmer. The first type is generally some kind of assessment or inventory that can be delivered to the population to determine specific interests and needs. These interest inventories can be taken in the form of telephone calls, written questionnaires given to everyone, random samples, informal group discussions, "get acquainted" interviews at the beginning of the school year, suggestion boxes, brainstorming sessions, or any other method used to receive specific input from the residence hall population.

These types of interventions can be quite accurate, especially when the method ensures a response - for example, a telephone survey. In written or mailed interest assessments, often the more vocal students' needs or interests are heard, whereas the less articulate needs are never understood. Another liability with assessment tools is that the information becomes obsolete because students' interests and needs are constantly changing. Therefore, assessments need to be made throughout the year, not just when students enter the residence hall in the fall. Obviously, the needs of an incoming freshman in September are much different than a second semester freshman in February.

The second method of determining interests and needs comes from the experienced staff and student leaders in the residence hall. Year-in and year-out, there are certain needs that can be programmed for residence halls on advance or without soliciting feedback, such as get-acquainted socials at the beginning of the school year. An annual Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter event, some type of tutorial program within the hall, a weight-lifting or exercise room, a library or study area within the hall, a program to raise money for a charity are all common. These needs or interests are common to our society, and programmers can be aware of them without inventories or questionnaires.

Develop a Purpose (What Is Your Goal?)

Student development does not just happen; it must be purposely triggered and carefully nurtured if the individual's potential is to be fulfilled (Blocker, 1974). Goal setting acts as the trigger.

Students and staff need to identify objectives and formulate rationales for each program. What is it that you hope to accomplish in a program, and what needs or interests will be satisfied? With this step we are utilizing what our assessments determine in step one. The program is actually starting to take shape now because we identified the goal which we hope to accomplish. We are also developing the reasons for the philosophy of this specific program or programs. We know what we hope to accomplish.

Program goals should be established by the programmer and the students, usually at the program's beginning. A major problem in our field has been that even well-planned, well-implemented programs have failed because their goals were not congruent with those of the participants. If students determine their needs and interests, and the staff responds by establishing appropriate objectives for their programs, the chances of participation in developmental programs is greatly increased. By taking this step, we will know in advance what needs or interests we are hoping to satisfy, and therefore, we can evaluate the program.

Initiate Program

Once we know the interests and needs and the purpose of the program, we can brainstorm ideas that will help formulate the program. If we do not already have a specific program in mind, we should use as many people as possible in this step. By being a part of a brainstorming group that helps to sort and evaluate programming ideas, members will develop a vested interest in the program. Brainstorming helps solidify ideas which have a foundation for the goals we have set for the specific program and the overall residence hall program. Implement Program

The implementation of the program includes several phases of administration and management.

1. Identify possible dates and places. This step prevents conflicts of scheduling, eliminates confusion at the time of the program, and allows complementary programming. For example, if alcohol abuse is a problem on your campus, a program committee might want to schedule a non-alcohol program on the same evening as a "beer bust" to give students an alternative to drinking.

2. Contact resource people early. If your program is going to require resource people, make sure you notify them early. Do not expect busy individuals to be able to change their schedule around for your program at the last moment. Another good reason for contacting resources people early is that they are likely to be better prepared to present a better program.

3. Check for scheduling conflicts within the population you are trying to reach since no one program on campus will attract everyone. For example, even if you attend a campus with a strong basketball program, a number of people in your residence halls will not attend basketball games. This might be a good time to meet some of the interests or needs of students that do not care for basketball. 

4. Arrange specific time, date and place. Once the programmers start to become this specific, it is a good omen that the program is on its way to becoming a success. This process includes reserving a room, arranging for equipment, preparing food, or managing any other resources that are needed for the program. A good programmer must be creative in managing resources to be successful.

5. Involve other people: delegate, delegate, delegate! Since successful programming relies upon interactive experiences, it is important to involve other people. If programmers try to do everything themselves, they will soon experience burn out and be of no use to their hall government or their hall staff. It is important that programmers learn to delegate and involve as many people as possible in the program. A serendipity resulting from this delegation will be that more people will be aware of the program and will also help advertise the program by telling each of their friends since they have a vested interest in it. Many times, by delegating and giving proper support and feedback, potential programmers are developed who can carry on the programming tradition in the hall.


A programmer can plan and put on the best program in the world, but if it is not publicized or marketed, it will be useless because no one will know to attend. Publicity is the next important step in a good program.

1. Identify who is responsible for advertising the program. Many of the larger programs need an individual or a team in each hall who is responsible for advertising programs. Many hall governments and staff have publicity committees or teams that serve a semester or a year team. These are people who are resourceful at advertising and can get the message out to the different student populations.

2. Identify who you are trying to reach. Know to whom you are marketing your program. You need to ask such questions as: Are you interested in a specific floor, or two floors, or a wing, or a hall, or the whole campus? It is worth sending a note specifically to each room or to the students who have expressed an interest, or possibly a fraternity, sorority, or organization whose purpose is related to your program's theme?

3. Determine types of community and campus publicity available to you. Usually this publicity can reach all the students on campus, or masses of people on campus or in the community.

Chapter 4 presents many types of publicity available on campus and in the community. Selecting an appropriate publicity technique can help you reach all the students on campus or a more specialized audience in the community.

Finalize Plans

At this point in the programming process, be certain that everything is going the way you had planned. It is always good to go back and check on the first five steps. Check with resource people to be sure they are still available and that you have all the equipment necessary. If there will be a speaker, a group, or some type of presentation, it helps to have the individuals see the room they will be using. This could determine the type of amplification, the type of seating arrangement, and so on. Next, verify that all the facilities have been reserved and are still available to you. Make sure the publicity has gone out, or is going out on time, is in the proper places, and explains the program accurately. Ascertain that someone has been designated to greet the presenters and guests and to ensure that things happen as planned.

At the Time of the Program

Start on time. Many students have allocated only so much time away from studies or other responsibilities, so start the program as planned and try to end it as has been advertised. Next, give a brief introduction. If the program is a traditional program, tell how and when it began, and how it has evolved over the years. If it is a new program, be more descriptive about the goals and objectives of the program. If individuals will keynote or perform, always introduce them and give some background on their individual or group performance. During the program, it is handy to have a moderator or director, especially in a program that includes discussion or participation. Finally, a good programmer should keep in mind that he or she can participate, relax, and enjoy the program, too. Many times, programmers get so involved in planning the program that they do not enjoy it when it is taking place.

Evaluate Program

The programmer must determine if the program met the needs and interests and fulfilled the purpose for which it was intended. One form or type of evaluation usually will not serve the purpose and provide the necessary feedback to programmer. Several things should be considered in evaluating a program; the activity, the impact, the quality, and the quantity. Sometimes one aspect out ways the other, but usually input on all four is important.

In evaluating a program three sources of opinion are available and necessary; the participant, the presenter, and the programmer. Evaluation Model Evaluate Program - activity and impact - quantity and quality A) Participant 1. Level of involvement - participant 2. Level of involvement - programmer 3. Level of involvement - presenter B) Attendance 1. Compare anticipated attendance with actual performance C) Efficiency 1. Was the event worth while - programmer 2. Was the time spent worth the result - presenter 3. Was the program worth attending - participant D) Effectiveness 1. Did it meet the needs it was designed to meet - programmer 2. What did participant gain - participant 3. Did presentation satisfy the needs and goals of the program - presenter E) Interests 1. Assess amount of feedback - programmer/presenter F) Additional Comments - participant/presenter/programmer Evaluation feedback can be received from several different methods: objective surveys, discussion groups, and suggestion boxes.

In summary, each of the eight programming steps is an integral part of the programming process. Any step that might be deleted could cause the program not to be as successful as possible. A veteran programmer will not need to use a checklist but will automatically take care of the eight areas. Beginning programmers sometimes will require a checklist to make sure everything is under control. Staff who are training new programmers should teach them these programming fundamentals so bad habits will not develop.

New programmers who witness failure frequently because they do not understand the fundamentals may lose interest and enthusiasm for programming.

Elements of a Well-rounded Program 1. Appropriate facilities 2. Commitments 3. Scheduling 4. Budgeting 5. Effective advertising 6. Understanding constituency 7. Resources (human, material, physical) 8. Content 9. Evaluation 10. Enthusiasm Why Programs Fall 1. Poor planning A. Goals have not been set. B. The needs and interests of the campus community have not been adequately assessed. C. Publicity reaches the wrong group. D. the event is not well-planned. 2. Poor location A. Too far from students B. No comfortable seating C. Too cold or too hot D. Too many distractions E. Not known to students 3. Poor publicity A. Not eye-catching B. Not enough C. Not far enough in advance D. Not a creative presentation or information E. Too cluttered F. Poorly distributed 4. Poor facilitator A. Poor interpersonal skills B. Poor speaker C. Not knowledgeable in the program area 5. Lack of colleagues' support A. Poor communication B. Lack of involvement C. Lack of delegation 6. Unprepared facilitator A. Lack of an agreement on topic B. Not enough time before program 7. Timing A. Conflicts with students' schedules B. Conflicts with other activities such as finals, mid-terms, holidays 8. Not following university procedures 9. Program runs too long A. Didn't specify with speaker 10. Murphy's Law A. The film doesn't arrive B. Equipment doesn't work C. The films print is of poor quality D. The room is not set up or light don't work E. The temperature is uncomfortable F. Helpers don't come through G. Attendance figures were projected unrealistically, and money is lost.