G. Kirk, J. Grohs

Virginia Tech (UNITED STATES)
This session will present the planning and implementation of assessment efforts at a center focused on community-based learning and student engagement at a public, land-grant university. The new assessment paradigm moves away from output measures (e.g., # of events, volunteers, or hours) and emphasizes more comprehensive outcome measures associated with programmatic impact on communities and on several dimensions of student development. This presentation will focus on the latter—student development—to show integration of four previously validated scales and two newly developed tools constructed as part of a multi-dimensional model. The plan includes assessment of student cultural competence, social justice attitudes, volunteer motivations, community self-efficacy, community orientation, and systemic problem-solving.

The researchers will present a problem-solving scenario tool and an assessment rubric, derived from the systems thinking and community development literatures, that can be used to assess the process by which students address community issues.

The rubric captures data about:
1) problem definition,
2) short- and long-term perspectives,
3) stakeholder involvement,
4) resource needs and adequacy,
5) feedback and unintended consequences,
6) issue interaction,
7) cultural/social/political context, and
8) anticipation of outcomes.

The presentation will highlight validation of the new tools and results from the first cross-sectional institutional data from graduating seniors and the initial results from a pilot of the problem-solving exercise specifically designed to assess systemic thinking in community-based applications.

Finally, there will be a discussion of the role for comprehensive civic engagement goals in design of curriculum and student experiences that cross traditional academic disciplinary boundaries. With consideration of the varied outreach and engagement mission of universities, the presentation will highlight potential modifications of the tools for measuring critical components of learning, character development, and individual efficacy at other institutions; the challenges of implementing a multi-method assessment plan; the purposes and potential benefits of measuring student development related to university-wide service and engagement efforts; contributions to institutional reputation and differentiation, and allocation of resources to ensure sustainability of engagement assessment initiatives.