Residential Life Collegium

Guided Learning Philosophy

The philosophy of Guided Learning was approved by the faculty of Berea College in the Spring of 1996, and continues to be the guiding principle for the work of the Student Life department. Guided Learning is a way of interacting with others that is based on individual and group reflection, self-direction, and the fundamental belief that good leadership requires the ability to first be a good community participant. A Guided Learner strives to balance both individual and community needs and is one who will not sacrifice integrity for popular opinion. Guided Learners know that sometimes they will be the teacher and sometimes the learner depending on who possesses the skill and experience and not necessarily who is in the power position. Policies and processes based on Guided Learning empower groups to be self-governing, encourage healthy challenge of the status quo, minimize leadership hierarchy and emphasize teamwork through commitment to reaching common ground and shared vision.

Berea College, in a 1912 Supreme Court case (Gott v. Berea College), accepted the role of In Loco Parentis, meaning “in place of the parents.” Until the mid-1990’s residence life policies and processes reflected a parental approach based on rules and punishment. It was understood that living on a college campus was an extension of home life and the nature of the relationships between faculty/administrators and students should reflect the same kind of relationship between parents and children. Eventually, through a variety of environmental indicators, it became evident that Berea College was ready to redefine itself in such a way that empowered and involved all members of the community. Why should everyone be involved you ask? The more people involved, the more the community will have been directly participatory in its own creation which results in greater commitment to shared vision rather than mere compliance to rules and regulations. This redefinition would include cross-departmental collaboration, policies based on principles of civility rather than control and punishment, and the honoring of civil discussion to bring about change. It can be seen that positive outcomes of the Guided Learning approach include: greater capacity for self-appraisal, creativity and critical thought and action, and increased instance of change propelled by healthy collaboration between faculty, staff and students.

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